Two nights ago, I finished reading 1984 by George Orwell. I have a sticker on my Yeti that has a stack of banned books and I decided I was going to read the ones that I hadn’t yet this year. I read The Color Purple, which was phenomenal though full of heavy content, and moved on to 1984.
When I started the book, I decided that I would read all of Orwell’s books because I loved his writing style. It’s crisp. It’s descriptive. It doesn’t waste words but somehow pulls you into the story. But two nights ago, I picked up the book right where Winston and Julia get arrested. The whole book is dystopian and unsettling, but after the arrest it takes a turn into the disturbing.
I finished it that same night. Partly because I didn’t know how he would end the story and partly because I knew I wouldn’t want to pick it up again the next day. It made me feel ill. And I get that was his point. He did it well. If Winston had been killed for disbelieving all the lies they were told, for refusing to conform, he would have been a hero. The authorities in the book were right: they shouldn’t create martyrs. They didn’t and what happened instead was revolting.
The story also reminded me of the value of beauty and love and physical pleasures. There were no pleasures in the story. The world was devoid of color and nature. Food was gross. Even the love between parents and children had been severed. There was no true education, no enjoyment of the world, no laughter.
I won’t say more because I don’t want to give spoilers if you haven’t read it. But I’ll be picking up something that I know I love for my next novel, just for a breather. Also, every month, I recap all the books that I’ve read on Substack if you’d like more book talk.