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 yet 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 likeable, 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