Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(Folio Society Hardback)


Author: George Orwell
Publisher: The Folio Society
RRP: £29.95
Click here to buy
Publication Date: Available now

Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth - or Minitrue as it is called in Newspeak - altering newspapers and reports to follow the arbitrary dictates of Big Brother’s propaganda. Beneath his outward conformity, Winston dreams of sharing his treasonable thoughts, breaking ‘the locked loneliness in which one had to live’. And so he takes his first dangerous steps - writing a diary of his doubts and then falling in love with a woman of the Party, the beautiful and brave Julia. They know their love is doomed, but Julia swears "They can make you say anything - anything - but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you." In Oceania, however, there is no possibility of solidarity, rebellion or love, and the Party can get anywhere...

George Orwell's (born Eric Arthur Blair) Nineteen Eighty-Four was originally published in 1949. It was the last book Orwell would publish, as sadly he died of pneumonia the following year. He was 46.

If you've never read the book, then you're in for something of a treat. Over thirty years (2015) after the events of the book it's surprising how much of Orwell's original "fears" have come to pass. We currently live in a world with almost constant surveillance (be it security cameras, Internet privacy or even supermarket loyalty cards). The media help to orchestrate how a nation thinks. Parents, and spouses can track the location of their children or partners whereabouts (the latest update for iPad makes this a feature that is unable to be removed). And anyone can use freely available software to clone all of someone's emails and have them copied to another email address. There are countless other examples of how every day our basic right to privacy is slowly being chipped away at.

I remember the first time I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, during free periods in a library while I was studying at university in 1991. I was so caught up in the tale that Orwell was weaving that I looked forward to my free time so that I could find my quiet place in the library, pick the book up off the shelf and settle down. I could have checked the book out and read it at my student accommodation, but there was something strangely Orwellian about hiding in an area of the library and reading away from the sight of others.

The book comes in a plain black cardboard slipcase and features an introduced by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and has illustrations by Jonathan Burton. You could argue that £30 is a lot of money for a book that you can easily pick up online for less than £1, but this isn't just a book, it's a lovingly crafted tribute for literature lovers.

If you just want to read the book, because you've never gotten around to it in the past. then you're probably better off picking up a cheap paperback edition for pennies online. This is a publication for those that have already read the original and want something with a little more value.

Technical info: Bound in cloth, printed with a design by Jonathan Burton. Set in Haarlemmer with Stencil display. 304 pages; frontispiece and nine colour illustrations. Measures 9½" x 6¼"


Darren Rea