Pages: 342 Published: 1949 Genre: Dystopian, Classic
“Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skillfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.”
There is so much to say about this book and yet none of it is good. As a bit of background, I actually have had this book on my ‘want to read’ list of the longest time, I’d always seen it on those lists of ‘Book To Read Before You Die’ or ‘Book To Read That’ll Change Your Life’ but consider my life unchanged. I will probably be displaying a lot of controversial opinions in this post and therefore potentially ‘triggering’ a lot of people since the book is actually very well recieved and popular among many people, however I cannot stand it. I think for me the best way for me to talk about my opinion of this book is to sum it up in a sentance: ‘A great concept, and yet a terrible execution’. I have decide to split this review into sections due to the amount of ground I want to cover and the sheer amount of ranting I have to do.
Winston Smith: Oh my lord, I have never seen a character as boring, uninspiring and flat as Winston Smith is. Winstons actions are repetitive and it is like reading an essays where someone is trying to read the word count, ‘Winston did this’, ‘Winston did that’, ‘Winston looked around’, ‘Winston thought carefully’. I get that the book is a dystopian novel so you’d expect the characters to be rather bleak due to living in such a world but there is absolutely nothing that makes Winston interesting, unique or a captivating character in anyway. After following Winston about in the book for 324 I was at my wits end. So with a character so bleak throughout the whole ‘story’ (if you can even call it that) naturally I was hoping that after Winston had been caught by the Thought Police (those who arrest you for thinking and taking action against the Party) at the end of the second part he would change and we’d see some great act of resistance or feat against the Party. But no. Winston sits in a cell, Winston looks back on his stupidy, Winston is tortured, Winston gives in. It’s not even a thrilling torture scene, he gives in to rats in the end. I do not believe that all books should end with the protagonist prospering, it’s a refreshing change to see a book where in fact the protagonist does not win, but the way the book ends and how Winston just gives up is dissapointing and so anti-climatic.
Julia: Winston’s co-conspirator if you like. It is actually Julia who plants the idea of rebellion in Winston’s head. So you may be wondering, ‘So just how do they rebel?’, ‘A secret underground uprising started?’, ‘A plot to blow up the Ministries?’, ‘An assassination attempt on an important figure?’. Nope, not even close. Winston and Julia rebel through sex. Yep, that’s right, Julia invities (more like demands) Winston to meet her in the countryside where they just have sex. To some this could be seen as a good rebellion due to the Party having an “Anti-Sex League” and them trying to stop people from doing ‘the deed’. Yet to me this is a rather pathetic rebellion, a rather selfish one too. Julia is only in a “relationship” with Winston for sex so she can feel she is rebelling, there is even a quote along the lines of “You (Julia) are only a rebel from the waist down”. Oh, and let us not forget how this even starts, Julia follows Winston around for a few days creepily staring at him (keep in mind here Winston has no clue who she is) and conveniently turns up wherever he is. We then learn what Winston thinks of her when he writes in his secret diary (which is actually not allowed by the Party, a better rebellion that sex I say) “At first I wanted to kill her, then rape her”. Beautiful Winston, beautiful. Back to their meeting, one day Winston passes Julia in the corridor and Julia “falls over” so that Winston helps her up, when he grabs her hand, Julia slips a note into his that says ‘I love you’, I know this is desperate and dark times Julia, but I think you’re getting attached a bit too quickly there. She’s never spoken a word to him before and now she claims she loves him and the next week they’re sleeping together. Urgh.
For starters the book is 324 pages long, when it simply could be condensed into around 200 or even less than that if Orwell was to cut out all of Winston’s repetition. The book is split into 3 parts, the first being what felt like a really long introduction, the second being a bit of a cobbled together story and the third where the story starts to pick up a little and then quickly drop into the worlds most ‘oh’ ending. To top this thrilling read off, mid-way through the 2nd part of the book there is actually a book inside the book that Winston is reading, instead of getting Winston to sum it up in his own few words (however repetitive they may be) we are given the book to read ourselves. It explains all of the Party’s enemy (Goldstein’s) ideas, I had to skip over this due to how insufferably mind-numbing it was to read, it actually adds nothing to the story and skipping it didn’t leave me with any part of the rest of the book that I didn’t understand. It’s pointless. There is no exciting part of the book or bit that gets you on the edge of your seat, it’s just constant ‘oh’.
As for the writing, George Orwell wrote this book in 1948, talking about the year 1984. You’d have thought he really could’ve gone to down with a more Science Fiction angle coming up with all these new inventions and making it as different as possible to 1948, but sadly no. Everything is exactly the same as 1948 with a different date slapped on it, Winston doesn’t use a single thing different to the “tech” of 1948. There is one difference though, the creation of the tele-screen. A device that can supposedly be used to watch all resisdents of Oceania simultaneously. A tele-screen is installed in every residents home that can be used by the party to spy on the residents at all times and can hear every word they utter. Whilst this point may be slighly petty, I will bring it up anyway, it is physically impossible for this to be a possible thing. Yes the book is satire so everything is exaggerated but when you get down to it, you’d need hundered of people to keep an eye on all the residents at all times and then the watchers, also being residents, would need to be watched and then those watchers of the watchees(?) would need to be watched and so on, physically impossible.
I wouldn’t read this book again if payed, I am actually baffled at how much praise this book recieves but I guess it will always be that book that I do not understand the hype over. Much like the Harry Potter series but that’s a story for another time. If you’re a big fan of reading classics and are trying to get through as many as possible, it might be for you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My Rating: 1/5 STARS
You can get the book here: