all the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)
 “Their combined ages were two hundred and sixty-three years. None of them had ever been out of England, fought in a war, been in prison, ridden a horse, travelled in an aeroplane, got married, or given birth to a child. There seemed no reason why they should not continue in the same style until they died. Year in, year out, nothing ever happened in the Comstock family.” 
 Gordon hates money so much that he left his good job and started working for a small book shop. At night he writes poetry while glaring at the hated aspidistra on his shelf in his rented room. And always thinking about money and the fact that he is too poor to do anything.

So goes his life, until one day when he receives a letter and a cheque for 10 pounds from an American magazine that will publish one of his poems. He is going to give half of it to his sister who has always given him a hand, but first he is finally going to invite his girlfriend and a friend out to dinner. But the perfect night turns into a drunken stupor that ends in jail.

Orwell is a master in portraying the life on the dirty, poor streets of London. And as in all of his novels, the political aspect is close to the surface. Although Gordon is a miserable character, Orwell writes with an excellent sense of humour, and it is hard to feel sorry for  Gordon as he can only blame himself for his position. After all, the war against money is a battle that he is doomed to lose. The way the book ends is another plus, although I predicted it.

This was the remaining Orwell novel on my shelf, and that is a little sad. But he has written some very interesting non-fiction books, so I have something to look forward to. If you have only read Animal Farm and 1984, I highly recommend his other works.

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sixty-one.

Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (1939)


George is a fat middle-aged man who feels like he has lived a very boring life. He reckons he hasn’t been happy since he married Hilda, and why did he marry her anyway? He remembers his happy childhood with fishing and reading, he never went fishing after 16. At that time he had to leave school and get a job and then the great war happened and he was shipped to France. And after that it was hard to get a job, he ended up in the insurance business and then married. He decides to go back to the village where he had his happy childhood and go fishing in that pond with the giant carps that no one else know about.

The beginning of this story really depressed me, so I didn’t continue reading it for a couple of months. And then I sensed that it was richly detailed sarcasm. I kept hoping that something exciting would happen to George or that he would do something completely out of character, but alas. And what the hell was that end? It left me disappointed.

thirty-two

A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell (1935)


Dorothy is a spinster, living at the home of her father, the rector of the church. She takes care of the house and the parish, doing her father’s work as he’s getting more and more mentally ill. She punishes herself if she is not able to do the work she set out to do that day. She is also determined to never marry and have devoted herself to God. One day she loses her memory and do not know who she is. She follows a group of kids living on the streets to Kent where they go hop-picking. There she suddenly remembers who she is and because of the scandal that her sudden disappearance from her village caused, she cannot go back. Instead she goes to London to find work but ends up living on the streets.

It took me a while to get into it as I found the descriptions of village life tremendously boring, I actually left the novel alone for six months before I picked it up again. It gets a lot more interesting once Dorothy loses her memory. What I liked the most was this excellent sentence:

Women who do not marry wither up – they wither up like aspidistras in back-parlour windows; and the devilish thing is that they don’t even know they’re withering.

(I accidentally deleted this entry while editing the blog so this is re-type and not as good as the original post.)