Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

2+2=5

 Synopsis: Winston Smith meets and falls in love with Julia, as Big Brother attempts to control every action and thought in a chilling dystopian society.

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Review: I honestly don’t know how to describe this book. For once, I’m at a loss for words and I struggled to write this review. 1984 was horrific and intense, with a haunting final image.

George Orwell’s 1984 takes us into a dystopian society, where Big Brother looms large and controls everything. People have telescreens in their homes that watch their every move. Thought Police can read your mind, and can arrest you for even thinking something rebellious. History is constantly rewritten to accommodate the present, and people disappear without rhyme or reason, never to be seen again.

Winston Smith is the main character, and he’s an everyman. He doesn’t have much of a personality, but in his environment, how can he? Having a bit more of a personality is Julia, although I really didn’t like her. She was too complacent and just didn’t care about what was going on around her. She was rebellious to a point, but it honestly felt like she was only rebellious because she wanted sex. Perhaps I misread her character, but that seemed to be the driving force behind everything she did. It just seemed a bit off.

Here Winston is, honestly trying to do what he can to silently rebel in his mind, and Julia didn’t really seem to care about what the government was doing and didn’t really want anything to change.

I could’ve done without all of the references to Winston’s varicose ulcer on his ankle, that was just unnecessary. I felt that was mentioned too many times, and once or twice is fine, but it seemed to be every other page that some mention was made. I dislike when authors repeatedly say the same thing, especially about something that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual plot. Perhaps it represented something that I didn’t get. Anyone care to weigh in? Maybe it was that he was slowly being eaten away from the inside out as he was silently rebelling? The references seem to drop off towards the end of the book (or maybe I was just ignoring them by that point), which would fit with the ulcer signifying Winston’s rebellion.

I found the society described to be absolutely terrifying. Conformity is key, with no individualism. You must agree wholeheartedly with the government. The government brainwashes its citizens, and alters history on a daily basis to suit what it is currently trying to push.

A society like this is one of my biggest fears, and we have technology that could enable a society like this (to a degree). Telescreens in your house watching your every move? Check. The government having the ability to fly helicopters and spy in windows? Check (drones). The ability to re-write history? Check. We’ve got the Internet, with more and more people not bothering to read actual books. How many times a day do we hear “it’s on the internet so it must be true”. I hear this all the time!!

Did I like this book? Nope. It’s impossible to “like” something that takes one of your biggest fears and turns that into an actual, realistic way of life, with modern implications that are absolutely terrifying. So no, I didn’t like this book, and I will most probably never read this again, as those last 60 pages or so were too intense. I haven’t even summoned the energy to read the afterword. I’ve certainly read books that have been more graphic, but the way this was told really knocked the wind out of me. But even though I can’t like it, I definitely appreciate it and its themes, and I believe this is a must read for everyone.

Bottom Line: Terrifying and chilling. This is a book everyone should read.

Added to my TBR:

What do you think? Have you read 1984? Will you ever read it again? Has my review totally scared you away from ever reading this book?

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15 thoughts on “Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

  1. Great review. Now imagine what this did for people when it came out in 1964, when we were just beginning to hear rumors about the government’s giant computers, and more and more things were requiring your SSN (my card said right on it that the number would never be used to identify me, and yet . . ), the government was taking more and more control, etc. This book was a real must read/terror at its time. Just like GO’s “Animal Farm” – read that yet? Now I must reread these two “classics” whose purpose was to remind us all not to let the government (or anyone else, for that matter, get too much control)! And you might add some Ayn Rand books to your list! I think “Anthem” is shortest; some of her books are very long, but still thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think if I read this way back before computers and such, I wouldn’t ever want to use one. I’m totally paranoid when it comes to government already, so this really freaked me out!! I haven’t read Animal Farm yet – I’ve got a copy of it somewhere – I picked it up to read a few months ago, and the cover fell off the book so I took that as I sign I wasn’t supposed to read it yet … Ooh Ayn Rand! I haven’t read any of her stuff yet – I know I’ve got Atlas Shrugged. So many books!! And I was told that Fahrenheit 451 was even scarier than 1984 (stuff about people just looking at big screens and not conversing with each other …).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Read other books in between, or you will really be paranoid! And those cameras they have all over London . . . Great if you are mugged, but . . . And don’t even let me think about drones!!! LOL (but with a little bit of hysteria included)

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  2. Those are some great adds to your TBR! I would say, if you don’t want to end up quite depressed, to put Brave New World between the other two. I’d say both Handmaid and Fahrenheit are at least in someway optimistic/hopeful, whereas BNW… not so much. They are all terrific books though. 🙂

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  3. I agree 1984 is super chilling (but in a totally fun-to-read way)! I will say I enjoyed 1984 and Brave New World much more than I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451 (it seemed like a short story with less world building compared to the other two), but if you read those, you’ll have to let me know what you think!

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  4. I felt like the last person in the world to read this book and, when I finally did, I enjoyed it, but I think I was expecting more after all the raving reviews I’d heard people give it. I think I still prefer Animal Farm. At least, I still reread Animal Farm. I’ve only read this one once.

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  5. Excellent review with some interesting points. I thought the varicose ulcer was a metaphor for Winston’s anxiety, a physical manifestation of his fears for being caught – so it not being mentioned in the last section of the book would make sense, as he’s been captured by that point.

    Thoroughly recommend Brave New World – when you’ve read it, feel free to check out my review of it, and I also have a review of 1984 on my blog too. I have The Handmaid’s Tale lined up to read too, to complete my trifecta of 20th century dystopia 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Great point about the ulcer representing Winston’s anxiety. I like that idea – it makes sense. And for it to represent something makes the constant mention of it more tolerable. Thanks for the recommendation of Brave New World! I really need to read it soon, along with The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ll check your post of 1984 out.

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  6. Wonderful review! Interesting thoughts on Julia. I did not like her the first two times I read the book, but this time I cut her a little more slack. The fact that she has any rebelliousness in her in the society she lives in is something. This time, she came across as really clever. I also enjoyed your thoughts about the varicose ulcer. I always just read it as showing that Winston is just a weak, everyday sort of person. It gives him trouble when he climbs stairs, at one point a guard kicks him in the ankle and it really hurts, etc. He’s not your typical hero, and physically, he’s not strong. But I suppose it could be symbolic, and I hadn’t noticed how the references drop off towards the end. This is one of my favourite books and I have read it 3 times now, but I can see how it might not be one you’d immediately reach for to reread. Anyway, great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!! I like your idea that the ulcer fits to show that he has a physical weakness and is ordinary. I think this would be a good book to analyze in a classroom or discuss in a book club. I’m not exactly sure what it was about Julia that I didn’t really like. Perhaps it was that she pursued Winston so much, and randomly told him she loved him, which just seemed odd. And she was rebellious in her mind to a point, but didn’t really want or take action towards any change in the society. And I agree with you about her being clever – I don’t know how she ever figured out that spot in the woods! I keep thinking about this book – it’s one that has really stayed with me!

      Liked by 1 person

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