Oct 5, 2008

Burmese Days

by George Orwell

During the 1920's, while India was still under British rule, George Orwell spent some years as an officer of the Imperial Police in Burma. His first novel, Burmese Days, is based on that experience. Here a small group of Englishmen languish in their shabby elitist European Club, suffering from the stifling heat and bickering pettily amongst themselves. Particularly about a recent order they've had to admit a native Indian into their club. The protagonist is John Flory, a lonely self-depreciating man who struggles to resist the conformity of the club members. He admires and befriends a native physician, whom he wants to see become their newest member. Meanwhile the local Magistrate is finagling to ruin the doctor's reputation, poking his fingers into others' lives. Interjected into all this is Elizabeth, a shallow, attractive young woman who arrives to live with her aunt and immediately becomes the center of conflict as the men of the Club vie for her attention. Every character is flawed, none are really likable, and yet Orwell makes it so easy to sympathize with them. Full of satire and wry humor, Burmese Days is a great read. Even though the ending dissatisfied me, because everything turned out as it would in real life, and it was kind of depressing. Somehow since it's a novel, I expected a different resolution. Yet that just serves to make the novel even stronger, because it so realistically portrays so many foibles of human nature.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 287 pages, 1934

7 comments:

Nymeth said...

Sounds great. I want to read more Orwell, so this is definitely going on the list.

Eva said...

I love Orwell's essays, and 1984 really impressed me, so I should read more of his fiction! Do you know about the Orwell blog project? Some people decided to pretend that his journal entries were blogs, and they've been publishing them on the same day he wrote them. They're not gorgeous or well-polished, the way his essays are, but it's still interesting. :)

Jeane said...

That blog project sounds cool. Do you have the URL?

Bybee said...

I'm hoping to read all of Orwell someday. Thanks for this review; I gobbled it up like potato chips!

janet said...

"Even though the ending dissatisfied me, because everything turned out as it would in real life, and it was kind of depressing"

Well said. It's not that I think novels should never be realistic. But I do think they should enrich reality some way, not just reflect it.

I wasn't sure if you saw the announcement when you stopped by my blog earlier, but you won the Tolkien giveaway. If you email me your address, I'll send the books right off to you. Congrats!

Jeane said...

Wow, thanks Janet! No; I hadn't noticed, I must have just missed that post. Heading over now!

Lenore said...

While I was in Burma, I saw lots of tourists reading this. Will have to also give it a try someday.