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George Bowling, the hero of Orwell's comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed b George Bowling, the hero of Orwell's comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed beyond recognition, and the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.


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George Bowling, the hero of Orwell's comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed b George Bowling, the hero of Orwell's comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed beyond recognition, and the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.

30 review for Coming Up for Air

  1. 5 out of 5

    İntellecta

    I`ve read the book “Coming Up for Air” written by George Orwell. He was a British author who`s native born name is Eric Arthur Blair. He lived from (*1903 to † 1950). Orwell`s book is a tragedy which is combined with a lot of humour. It`s not only based on the historical events of this story, but also based on incredible aphorisms which consequently motivates the reader to deal with the details and messages. It´s a very personal book which broaches the issue of a normal childhood combined with t I`ve read the book “Coming Up for Air” written by George Orwell. He was a British author who`s native born name is Eric Arthur Blair. He lived from (*1903 to † 1950). Orwell`s book is a tragedy which is combined with a lot of humour. It`s not only based on the historical events of this story, but also based on incredible aphorisms which consequently motivates the reader to deal with the details and messages. It´s a very personal book which broaches the issue of a normal childhood combined with the fear of the therefore upcoming World War. Moreover he uses the example of George Bowling to narrate the uprooting of the lower middle class after World War One, which failed by searching for a way out. All in all it`s a very interesting and especially emotional book. It leads to unconscious interests in the personal story and historical events and is consequently a book I would definitely recommend.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    One of Orwell’s less well known novels; it is a rather bleak comic novel written and set in 1938/1939. It is a well written novel about nostalgia, the lower middle classes, relationships between men and women and middle age. Orwell is primarily a political writer and as he said himself, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” Given works like 1984 and Animal Farm, it isn’t surprisi One of Orwell’s less well known novels; it is a rather bleak comic novel written and set in 1938/1939. It is a well written novel about nostalgia, the lower middle classes, relationships between men and women and middle age. Orwell is primarily a political writer and as he said himself, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” Given works like 1984 and Animal Farm, it isn’t surprising that this one can be forgotten. Coming up for Air is narrated by George Bowling; a man living in the suburbs with a wife and two children, in his late 40s and in an unexciting but stable white collar job. Orwell has always created his male leads with a strong sense of inadequate masculinity; some self-awareness, many and obvious faults. In terms of plot, at the beginning of the book George is bemoaning his lot, his wife, job and life. We then have the nostalgia where he recalls his childhood pre 1914 in the Edwardian era in a town called Lower Binfield. Later in the book George takes some holiday and without telling his wife goes back to Lower Binfield after a gap of 25 years to search for his past, which, of course, has disappeared. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Some people have found George Bowling endearing; he isn’t. Orwell draws his caricature sharply. He is human, not a grotesque. But consider the point where George is laid on his bed and considering how women let themselves go after marriage; conning men to get to the altar and then suddenly rushing into middle age and dowdiness. This is from a man who is 45, fat, has false teeth and bad skin and wears vulgar clothes. Orwell is laying on the irony with a trowel. Late in the book George sees an old girlfriend from nearly 30 years previously. She has changed greatly and he barely recognises her (he inwardly reflects that she has aged badly without making the jump that she has not recognised him). George does have moments of clarity when he almost grasps how ridiculous he is, but not quite. The female characters are not well drawn and are feminine stereotypes, although Orwell does capture the monotony of suburban life. Usually Orwell’s female characters are more rounded (Julia in 1984), but the focus here is firmly on George Bowling and he certainly perceives the women around him in two-dimensional ways. Orwell is also satirising suburbia, he describes the road on which Bowling lives as a “line of semi-detached torture chambers”. Although Bowling dislikes his lot, he accepts it reluctantly, despite his brief foray into his past. Ever in the background is the threat of war; by this time war with Hitler was seen as inevitable and there is a sense of impending doom. George is aware that a good deal of what is around him will be destroyed, as the 1914-1918 war swept away the world of his childhood. Orwell also lets his own political feelings slip in occasionally and his description of a New Left Book Club meeting is very well drawn. It is a good read and has a deep vein of humour in the face of coming destruction. Not Orwell at his best, but certainly a different aspect of his work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Coming Up for Air, George Orwell The themes of the book are nostalgia, the folly of trying to go back and recapture past glories and the easy way the dreams and aspirations of one's youth can be smothered by the humdrum routine of work, marriage and getting old. It is written in the first person, with George Bowling, the forty-five-year-old protagonist, who reveals his life and experiences while undertaking a trip back to his boyhood home as an adult. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1994 میلادی عنوان: ه‍وا Coming Up for Air, George Orwell The themes of the book are nostalgia, the folly of trying to go back and recapture past glories and the easy way the dreams and aspirations of one's youth can be smothered by the humdrum routine of work, marriage and getting old. It is written in the first person, with George Bowling, the forty-five-year-old protagonist, who reveals his life and experiences while undertaking a trip back to his boyhood home as an adult. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1994 میلادی عنوان: ه‍وای‌ ت‍ازه‌؛ ن‍وی‍س‍ن‍ده‌ ج‍رج‌ ارول‌؛ م‍ت‍رج‍م‌ گ‍ل‍رخ‌ س‍ع‍ی‍دن‍ی‍ا؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌: ه‍رم‌‏‫‏‏، 1372؛ در 298ص؛ شابک 9648882096؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20م عنوان: ه‍وای‌ ت‍ازه‌؛ ن‍وی‍س‍ن‍ده‌ ج‍رج‌ ارول‌؛ م‍ت‍رج‍م‌ الهه وحیدکیا؛ تبریز، اختر، هاشمی‌سودمند‏، 1389؛ در 328ص؛ شابک 9789645172907؛ چاپ دوم و سوم 1389؛ چاپ چهارم 1390؛ چاپ پنجم 1391؛ چاپ ششم 1396؛ چاپ هشتم 1398؛ به عنوانهای دیگری هم ترجمه و منتشر شده است هوای تازه یک داستان نوستالژیک است؛ داستان تلاشی احمقانه برای بازگشت به گذشته و افتخارات و رؤیاهای آن روزها؛ شخصیت نخست داستان مردی چهل و پنج ساله به نام «جرج بولینگ» است؛ او با همسر و دو فرزندش یک زندگی معمولی دارند، و کارمند شرکت بیمه است؛ او زندگی ‌ای کسل ‌کننده و روزمره دارد، و به پوچی نزدیک می‌شود؛ داستان از جایی آغاز می‌شود که «جرج» برای تحویل گرفتن دندان‌های مصنوعی خویش یک روز از کار مرخصی گرفته است؛ در این روز او به یاد خاطرات دوران کودکی و نوجوانی خویش و سال‌های پیش از جنگ می‌افتد؛ او دوران کودکی شاد و آرام‌بخشش را به یاد می‌آورد و سپس به دنیای پس از جنگ که کاملاً با آن متفاوت است می‌اندیشد. «جورج» که به ‌نوعی از خودش و دنیای اطرافش بیزار است تصمیم می‌گیرد برای مدت کوتاهی هم که شده، بدون همسر و فرزندانش راهی شهر کوچک زادگاهش شود، تا شاید بتواند آرامشش را بازیابد، اما چیزی که با آن مواجه می‌شود شبیه انتظاراتش نیست؛ شهر هیچ شباهتی به گذشته ها ندارد، و کارخانه ‌ها، فروشگاه‌های زنجیره‌ ای و شکل جدید زندگی شهر رؤیاهایش را تسخیر کرده ‌اند. او دیگر هوایی برای تنفس نمی‌یابد نقل نمونه متن از کتاب: «بعضی از مردم به ‌اشتباه خیال می‌کنند اگر زنی به یک مرد چاق نگاه می‌کند برای مسخره کردن یا دست انداختن اوست، اما حقیقت این است که هیچ زنی حاضر نمی‌شود سربه‌سر مردی بگذارد یا با او شوخی کند. مگر اينکه نسبت به او کششی داشته باشد. البته من هميشه چاق نبوده ‌ام هشت و نه سال است که به این روز افتاده ‌ام و در نتیجه، ویژگی‌های خاصی پیداکرده‌ ام. اما باطناً چاق نیستم؛ اشتباه برداشت نکنید؛ خود را آدمی سینه سوخته و دل‌شکسته زیر نقابی خندان فرض نمی‌کنم؛ نمی‌توان در یک شرکت بیمه با این ویژگی‌های اخلاقی کار کرد؛ من مردی از طبقه‌ ی عوام و خالی از هرگونه احساسات هستم که خودم را با هر شرایطی وفق می‌دهم؛ تا روزی که دلالی پایه و اساس تجارت است و دنیا بر مجوز فریب و نیرنگ می‌گردد، جایی برای احساسات لطیف وجود ندارد»؛ پایان نقل تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “That's the way we're going nowadays. Everything slick and streamlined, everything made out of something else.” ― George Orwell, Coming Up for Air A novel that explores the pastoral life and experiences of youth in Edwardian England before the First World War as a memory of a man who is anxious about his own existence and pessimistic about his nation's inevitable progress towards another world war. I think John Wain was right when he said, "What makes _Coming Up For Air_ so peculiarly bitter to t “That's the way we're going nowadays. Everything slick and streamlined, everything made out of something else.” ― George Orwell, Coming Up for Air A novel that explores the pastoral life and experiences of youth in Edwardian England before the First World War as a memory of a man who is anxious about his own existence and pessimistic about his nation's inevitable progress towards another world war. I think John Wain was right when he said, "What makes _Coming Up For Air_ so peculiarly bitter to the taste is that, in addition to calling up the twin spectres of totalitarianism and workless poverty, it also declares the impossibility of 'retaining one's childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies' - because it postulates a world in which these things are simply not there any more." This is a pessimistic novel that deals with sevearl paired themes: - nostalgia for the past vs fear of the future - memory vs truth - memento mori vs inevitable change - the individual/internal vs the universal/external - liberty vs loss - poverty vs wealth As with Orwell's other work, 'Coming Up for Air' has some amazing prose and is definitely worth the effort.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    If Orwell had ever divided his books between "entertainments" and serious works, as Graham Greene did, I assume he would have classified Coming Up for Air (1939) as the former, but it's still a fascinating window into the pre-war anxiety experienced by ordinary people in England. When George Bowling finds himself glancing worriedly at the sky on his way to work, his thoughts seem to be picking up directly from Orwell's previous book, Homage to Catalonia, which ends with Orwell contemplating "the If Orwell had ever divided his books between "entertainments" and serious works, as Graham Greene did, I assume he would have classified Coming Up for Air (1939) as the former, but it's still a fascinating window into the pre-war anxiety experienced by ordinary people in England. When George Bowling finds himself glancing worriedly at the sky on his way to work, his thoughts seem to be picking up directly from Orwell's previous book, Homage to Catalonia, which ends with Orwell contemplating "the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs." Ultimately this is a story about running away, or at least the desire to run away, and it includes some of Orwell's best comic writing. There's a particularly inspired moment when George, in the process of trying to escape for the weekend without letting anyone know, glances at the road behind him and imagines everyone in his life in hot pursuit, including Hitler and Stalin on a tandem bicycle: "There's the chap who's trying to get away! After him!" Some readers might find it surprising that Orwell had a bit of sympathy for the chap trying to get away. Orwell was a man, after all, who in his late 30s volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War when he didn't have to, who seemingly couldn't conceive of an individual life without a certain responsibility to civilization as whole- a man I find morally admirable but for the same reason intimidating. But there's nevertheless some additional evidence of this sympathy in "Inside the Whale", Orwell's critical but not unsympathetic essay about Henry Miller- ostensibly a review of Tropic of Cancer, it turns into a reflection on Miller's worldview:I first met Miller at the end of 1936, when I was passing through Paris on my way to Spain. What most intrigued me about him was to find that he felt no interest in the Spanish war whatever. He merely told me in forcible terms that to go to Spain at that moment was the act of an idiot. He could understand anyone going there from purely selfish motives, out of curiosity, for instance, but to mix oneself up in such things from a sense of obligation was sheer stupidity. In any case my ideas about combating Fascism, defending democracy, etc., etc., were all baloney. Our civilization was destined to be swept away and replaced by something so different that we should scarcely regard it as human — a prospect that did not bother him, he said. And some such outlook is implicit throughout his work.The desire to get inside the whale- or to admit that you are already inside it, as Orwell refuses to condemn Miller for admitting- was understandable then, and it's understandable now. Who wants to think about this effing Coronavirus? Who wants to think about the warming of the planet, the concentration camps in China, and all the things that we don't seem to have any control over as individuals? In another chapter that I remember somewhat vividly from this novel, George reminisces about getting to spend a few months alone on an island, at some strange care-taking job, just sitting alone, reading and thinking. Coming up for air, you might say. Life might offer a peaceful interregnum here or there, Orwell suggests, but there's also an awareness throughout his work that the world will not simply allow us to go into hiding and read books. Not for long, anyway. Maybe what draws you back, finally, is your own sense of responsibility as a human being, an understanding that the world's problems are your problems. That if I see other people suffering, that has something to do with me. I can accept the lie that I just worked harder than they did, that I "deserve" what I have that others don't, and that's certainly more pleasant, or I can remind myself day in and day out that things are really fucked up. That I make this choice every day is something that Bernie Sanders's campaign for president, win or lose, has made me more conscious of, and something that Orwell's writing insists upon as well. The world won't simply leave us to our self-involved pleasures. And maybe that's as it should be.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I recently read Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton and that kickstarted a whole fascination with English literature set in or around London c1939. In addition to Hangover Square, particular recent highlights include... London Belongs to Me The Slaves of Solitude Of Love And Hunger ...it's a rich vein that I continue to mine. 'Coming Up For Air' was my first George Orwell since 'Homage to Catalonia' a few years back (whilst preoccupied with books about the Spanish Civil War). I'd also read '1984' an I recently read Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton and that kickstarted a whole fascination with English literature set in or around London c1939. In addition to Hangover Square, particular recent highlights include... London Belongs to Me The Slaves of Solitude Of Love And Hunger ...it's a rich vein that I continue to mine. 'Coming Up For Air' was my first George Orwell since 'Homage to Catalonia' a few years back (whilst preoccupied with books about the Spanish Civil War). I'd also read '1984' and 'Animal Farm' when I was a teenager. This book is another great slice of pre-WW2 English literature. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It evokes the era perfectly. The book is split into four parts. The second part is full of childhood reminiscences from the early twentieth century. The protagonist recalls his childhood from the perspective of the late 1930s. This section reminded me very much of 'Cider with Rosie' (one of my favourite books), with the key difference that this is fiction. It made me wonder how Orwell managed to so credibly know, and be able to relate, a childhood in a small rural community. Either way it's a stunning section, and also very cleverly manages to highlight some of the seismic changes that took place for the average person in the UK throughout the twentieth century. George Bowling, the middle-aged, middle-income protagonist is a great vehicle for Orwell's musings on pre-WW2 England. Bowling is an insightful, straight talking Everyman character who conveys his thoughts with great honesty and self-deprecating humour. The book also contains some hints at what was to come with 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' which Orwell would write a few years later - specifically musings on an "after-war" dystopian future characterised by hate, slogans, secret cells etc. Remarkably prescient and demonstrating he was already thinking about some of the themes that were later developed so memorably in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. The end of the book is pretty downbeat and this tone characterises the whole book and therefore might not be to everyone's taste. I loved it. I've already bought Orwell's 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' which I will read soon. If you like any of the books I list at the start of this review then I'm confident you'd enjoy this book too. 5/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    As with Orwell’s other books, I loved his endearing trademark of dry wit and humor in his powerful storytelling. This novel would probably resonate with anyone who has ever experienced an urge for an escapist indulgence. I would have given this book five stars had it not been for the description of wicked little boys killing baby birds for fun. This is a story about a middle-aged man trying to find an escape from boredom, fear and anxieties about aging, impending disaster and existence in general As with Orwell’s other books, I loved his endearing trademark of dry wit and humor in his powerful storytelling. This novel would probably resonate with anyone who has ever experienced an urge for an escapist indulgence. I would have given this book five stars had it not been for the description of wicked little boys killing baby birds for fun. This is a story about a middle-aged man trying to find an escape from boredom, fear and anxieties about aging, impending disaster and existence in general. In modern day term: mid-life crisis. He lives in England with his family in a working-class suburban home and has a mundane job as an insurance salesman. The timeline is the interim period between the two world wars. He hopes to find a little relief from the daily pressures of living by re-visiting his childhood town in the countryside, of which he retains fond memories. Is he successful? You can probably guess. [P.S. Above all, this novel is a sobering reminder of the horrors of war.]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up “Coming Up for Air”. I knew it wouldn’t be the scathing allegory that is “Animal Farm” and I knew it wouldn’t be the terrifying dystopia of “1984”. I wasn’t sure what Orwell would do with the story of a middle-aged man who is frustrated with his empty suburban life, as the world moves inexorably towards World War II. I think I had forgotten how beautiful his prose was, and how he had this uncanny inability to capture feelings and thoughts and I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up “Coming Up for Air”. I knew it wouldn’t be the scathing allegory that is “Animal Farm” and I knew it wouldn’t be the terrifying dystopia of “1984”. I wasn’t sure what Orwell would do with the story of a middle-aged man who is frustrated with his empty suburban life, as the world moves inexorably towards World War II. I think I had forgotten how beautiful his prose was, and how he had this uncanny inability to capture feelings and thoughts and put them on the page. The depths of nostalgia, regrets and longing the unpleasant and vulgar George Bowling goes through in those 250 pages makes you forget his paunch, his receding hairline and his insufferable wife. Under the skin, we are not that different, no matter what we might think. George lives in a mediocre little house in one of the London suburbs. His marriage is unhappy, his children are insufferable (unless they are sleeping), his job is a dead-end and he feels like his body is starting to fall apart. In other words, he’s got a major case of mid-life crisis. As he wanders around the City, he begins to dwell on his childhood in a tiny market town, the simple joys of fishing and reading that he never managed to recapture past the age of sixteen, and frets about the fact that very soon, the world will be at war and that all he knows will vanish. The world changes constantly, as do people. But some events are like a shift in tectonic plates: the change is sudden and abrupt. The Great War changed something fundamental in the English lifestyle and George is just the right age to have watched the old world die and the new one take over. As such, he is disillusioned and feels disconnected from the world in which he lives because it is not the one he grew up in. He feels like an expat in his own country. At some point, he reflects that his father would have thought of his cheap house as a great luxury, what with the bathroom indoors and everything! Life in the Edwardian and Victorian era was often short, brutal, dirty – and people had a very different benchmark with which to judge whether or not they had a good life. Those standards all went right out of the window when the country towns died and the suburbia began sprawling. Soldiers back from the war did not go back to the family business, they began looking for work in the city and a home not too far from work. And as George sees another war creep up over the horizon, he knows the world is in for another abrupt change, and yearns for a time when things were simple and steady, and fear was not always at the back of his mind. He tries to reconnect with his past, but what he finds is not at all what he remembered... A bittersweet, sad, funny, gorgeously written novel that made me admire Mr. Orwell even more than I did. In this book, he captures nostalgia and resignation with more finesse and skill than anyone else I have ever read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

    When I first had a look at this, I wondered if it was really by the same George Orwell. It certainly didn't seem to be anything like 1984 or Animal Farm. But it was indeed he. I spent most of the book wondering if anything was actually going to happen in this story. And nothing really did. I hated it at first, but for some reason I kept coming back to it. It grew on me. The protagonist, a fat and rather unlikeable father of two named George Bowling, leads a rather boring middle-class existence in When I first had a look at this, I wondered if it was really by the same George Orwell. It certainly didn't seem to be anything like 1984 or Animal Farm. But it was indeed he. I spent most of the book wondering if anything was actually going to happen in this story. And nothing really did. I hated it at first, but for some reason I kept coming back to it. It grew on me. The protagonist, a fat and rather unlikeable father of two named George Bowling, leads a rather boring middle-class existence in the mid-1930s. He sells insurance. He lives in a suburban house. He doesn't love his wife anymore and he doesn't really like his children. The impetus for the plot is that George won seventeen pounds in a horse race and decides to keep it a secret from his family and go on a secret trip back to Lower Binfield, the village where he grew up. Another good title for the book might have been You Can't Go Home Again, but Thomas Wolfe had already taken it. When George returns to Lower Binfield, he doesn't even recognize it. The true beauty of the book is its description of the settings. A large chunk of the story is taken by George describing his youth and young adulthood in a time lost to us forever: before the War to End All Wars, then the world seemed a much safer place. As George puts it, it's a time you either know already and don't need to be told about, or a time you don't know and could never understand. Also important is Orwell's prescience for the future: war is looming, and George is well aware that it might change the world forever once again. I would recommend this books to scholars of modern English literature and also turn-of-the-century England.

  10. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    A Note on the Text --Coming Up for Air

  11. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Released in 1939, Coming Up for Air is perhaps the final kiss-of-death to pre-war life in miserable old England, and the first ready-for-war book to soberly embrace the next six agonising years. The protagonist George is a First World War veteran whose life has settled into the predetermined routine of people of his class and age—a travelling insurance position, a nagging harridan of a missus, and two kids too many. After kvetching about his sorry lot in Part One, he recalls his childhood in Par Released in 1939, Coming Up for Air is perhaps the final kiss-of-death to pre-war life in miserable old England, and the first ready-for-war book to soberly embrace the next six agonising years. The protagonist George is a First World War veteran whose life has settled into the predetermined routine of people of his class and age—a travelling insurance position, a nagging harridan of a missus, and two kids too many. After kvetching about his sorry lot in Part One, he recalls his childhood in Part Two, nostalgic for the privations of his working-class boyhood—somehow they’re better than the privations of his lower-middle-class adulthood—and takes a trip to his youth in the later parts, where everything has slowly modernised and the fishing pond has been tarmacked to make way for an asylum. The novel is written in the first-person, making it hard to discern Orwell’s intentions—is he satirising this look-back bore, or sympathising with the lack of free-will in his life? Probably both. A darkly funny if mainly miserable book about the people who lived lives of quiet despair so we could access Goodreads on our iPhones.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ted

    45th book of 2021. Artist for this review is English painter Julian Trevelyan. 3.5. A very English novel, as expected from Orwell. I've been meaning to read his earlier works for a long time now, having only read 1984 and Animal Farm previously, and a great load of his non-fiction. Like Huxley, I suppose, he is most known for his dystopian novel, though really, his early novels are very different. John Carey says that those aforementioned novels of Orwell's are "here in embryo", and I was surpris 45th book of 2021. Artist for this review is English painter Julian Trevelyan. 3.5. A very English novel, as expected from Orwell. I've been meaning to read his earlier works for a long time now, having only read 1984 and Animal Farm previously, and a great load of his non-fiction. Like Huxley, I suppose, he is most known for his dystopian novel, though really, his early novels are very different. John Carey says that those aforementioned novels of Orwell's are "here in embryo", and I was surprised by how true it is; they really are. Conversely, Huxley's 20s satires are almost unrecognisable from his later Brave New World. This is a real pre-war novel and I was wondering throughout what Orwell was attempting with it, an anti-war piece? A satire? A political piece? Attack on industry? The novel's protagonist (told in the first-person) is George Bowling, a forty-five-year-old fat insurance salesman who doesn't appear to like his wife or his children. But he does acquire a set of false teeth in the beginning of the novel, which sets off his nostalgia, as does a news-poster about King Zog of Albania. "Tisbury"—1937 Part II of the novel is a long interlude from the present day (1939) that slips back to Bowling's English childhood, his parents, his school, his older brother and his friends and what they got up to together (stealing, killing birds, wandering, fishing). Orwell's writing is wonderfully well-written and there were charming elements to all this early stuff, sort of reminiscent of Laurie Lee's books, but not overly compelling. Bowling's memories move on towards 1914 and through the First World War, which I found far more interesting to read. Then his subsequent marriage, finding work, his job, etc., all the way to the present day again, where Bowling has a mini-epiphany and decides to take a week off and go back to his hometown. Thus Orwell describes the drive, the changes to the place, the woods, the buildings, Bowling's thoughts about the town now compared to then... Great writing, but not massively interesting again. However, as Carey suggests, those later and more impressive works (I consider 1984 one of the great novels from our country) are in embryo here. On the brink of another war, there are some fascinating sections— War! I started thinking about it again. It's coming soon, that's certain. But who's afraid of war? That's to say, who's afraid of the bombs and the machine-guns? 'You are,' you say. Yes, I am, and so's anybody who's ever seen them. But it isn't the war that matters, it's the after-war. The world we're going down into, the kind of hate-world, slogan-world. The coloured shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons. The secret cells where the electric light burns night and day, and the detectives watching you while you sleep. And the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke. It's all going to happen. —Big Brother is right there lurking between those lines, alright. "The Potteries"—1938 There's some wit throughout but not as much as I was hoping. Some good lines such as, and the Germans raping nuns on tables (it was always 'on tables', as though that made it worse), but mostly it was more serious than I had always imagined. On the whole, Orwell's non-fiction reigns supreme. His books Down and Out in Paris and London and Homage to Catalonia are both brilliant, and his essays are stellar too, Consider the Whale, for one. Orwell wrote this novel whilst recuperating from illness in French Morocco, and for the most part I simply see it as a filler novel, a stretching-of-legs, before writing those two brilliant novels that would end his career.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Coming Up For Air is written in the first person as George Bowling, although George Orwell doesn't take long to break out in the first 30 pages with his own social critique on housing estates 'rackets' & developers etc. It took me a while to warm to George Bowling's 'voice' as the narrator. Part II is a change in conversation from Part I. Part II starts off with George Bowling realising how much his life has changed since he was a young lad. Then for the next 93 pages George is reminiscing on his Coming Up For Air is written in the first person as George Bowling, although George Orwell doesn't take long to break out in the first 30 pages with his own social critique on housing estates 'rackets' & developers etc. It took me a while to warm to George Bowling's 'voice' as the narrator. Part II is a change in conversation from Part I. Part II starts off with George Bowling realising how much his life has changed since he was a young lad. Then for the next 93 pages George is reminiscing on his formative years, his parents & brother, & gets into a detailed description of English nostalgia of sweet shops and childhood memories. There is a good deft portrait of a life of a working class girl, economically told in the description of the girl Katie, who although not much older than George, used to mind him and take him for walks as a boy - he sees Katie years later aged twenty seven, but looked fifty. I struggled with getting through those 93 pages of nostalgia but joy & relief when George brings it back to the present, and Orwell, through George Bowling as narrator, gives his own undisguised views on war, the army, government, social disillusion at coming back to no jobs after army war service, (this subject was also covered very well in Down and Out in Paris and London.) Orwell only focusses on how the war and coming out of the army to no jobs from a male perspective, he doesn't mention how women were displaced from jobs they held during the war. Women aren't drawn in a very positive light, mostly negatively or dismissively as 'platinum blondes' or 'a secretary with a permanent wave', a nagging wife and vindictive busybodies. I'll get to Hilda the wife, and her friends shortly.  P.130 - oh yes! the Orwell we know and love is back in top form. I used to wonder, before reading Coming Up For Air, why there wasn't a Monument to George Orwell in London - haha! Now I know! As if. George gives the whole system a royal serve in this novel. Orwell wrote Coming Up For Air in Marrakech while recovering from serious illness, the air was better for his lungs. Maybe that is the real reason for the choice of title for the book. Coming Up For Air is really an essay in novel form, a cynical satire of the Western illusion of 'Progress'. I think the main subject Orwell is looking at with this book is what is euphemistically called 'Progress'. The increase in population on George's return to where he grew up, the river overcrowded and polluted, the fish long gone. All the 'progress' and change clearing everything in it's path - erasing the past, which Orwell covers in another approach  in 1984. The book is set in the late 1930s, just before WWII. The housing estates and expanding towns and polluted river described in the story, sounds more modern, more the 1960s. There are other structural similarities to 1984, like the progress of the towns erasing the past. A man being watched and monitored by Big Wife. Confessing to things he didn't do.  Big Wife Is Watching You.   George Bowling while walking around trying to recognise the old Lower Binfield town where he grew up amid the new growth, he is shocked and resentful that the paddocks and fields that were there in his youth have been built on with new housing estates. As George is not one for self reflection but nostalgia, it doesn't dawn on him that his own house in the new estate in West Bletchley has been built on paddocks of someone else's childhood memories. Another interesting character is the elderly lanky pipe smoking scholar Old Porteous, who George visits occasionally who relates everything to the ancient past. I think this adds a nice contrast to the progress erasing the past statement in the story. What is Orwell saying in his description of George's encounter with the chap in shorts at the pool "standing watching the kids"? "There was something vaguely queer about his appearance, but what really struck me was the look in his eye." George thought the chap might have escaped from the nearby asylum. Upper Binfield's exclusive new alternative estate, who's residents are all vegetarian weirdos. (I recall Orwell having a dig at vegetarianism in one of his essays.)  The old Binfield House and grounds have been turned into an asylum. On the pretext of having a look around the grounds, George thinks of, if asked, that he's looking at admitting his wife. Bloody hell, this book is hilarious. Marriage with Hilda - Why is cynicism so funny when written as fiction? The novel is also a portrait of the "this is serious" suburban middle-class world. George Orwell gives us his George Bowling reality check of how the world really is. Fiction turns cynicism into dark humour. The two main protagonists, George and Hilda Bowling - George and his wife Hilda. George, on the one hand is not of much character, unfaithful in a flash given the chance, but at heart an optimist. He dabbles on the horses using a book called 'Astrology applied to Horse-racing'. There's a lot of stuff in there that's subtle, the sarcasm is very funny but could be missed. - Hilda on the other hand is that worst type to have to live with, a 'worrier'. Everything is drawn down to Hilda's worried view of everything. Hilda and her friends, the vindictive Mrs Wheeler and Miss Minns, they're into anything as long as it's free. This book is really a classic darkly satiric masterpiece of social analysis - I did glaze over in Part II at the nostalgic reminiscing for over ninety pages. I just find that stuff mind-numbingly boring. Same case with Anthony Burgess' 'Little Wilson'. I think it's a feeling of the claustrophobic restriction at the limiting life choices that the English class system imposed, and maybe still does. I'll revisit those ninety pages on finishing this otherwise superb book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Coming Up for Air is a character-driven novel about the life of forty-five-year-old insurance salesman George Bowling. Bowling tells his story in first person, starting with his early memories of growing up in the English village of Lower Binfield, the son of a grain merchant. He remembers the wars in his life – the Boer War of his childhood and his service in the Great War. The story shows how life changed for the worse in the aftermath of those two wars. It also portrays life in England in the Coming Up for Air is a character-driven novel about the life of forty-five-year-old insurance salesman George Bowling. Bowling tells his story in first person, starting with his early memories of growing up in the English village of Lower Binfield, the son of a grain merchant. He remembers the wars in his life – the Boer War of his childhood and his service in the Great War. The story shows how life changed for the worse in the aftermath of those two wars. It also portrays life in England in the lead-up to WWII and the rise of totalitarianism. The book was published in 1939, and it is interesting to look back now knowing what actually happened. George Bowling is a coarse low-key character and there is not much interaction among the characters. The plot is minimal. One of the highlights of the book is his return to Lower Binfield as an adult, and the realization that everything has changed: “One thing, I thought as I drove down the hill, I’m finished with this notion of getting back into the past. What’s the good of trying to revisit the scenes of your boyhood? They don’t exist. Coming up for air! But there isn’t any air. The dustbin that we’re in reaches up to the stratosphere.” I found the message of powerlessness in the face of global events particularly relevant to today. I enjoyed the masterful writing style, but it is unevenly paced. At times I was drawn into the story and at other times I found my mind wandering. The ending is extremely odd. I have now read three of Orwell’s works. This book is realistic, and therefore, much different from his dystopian novels, 1984 and Animal Farm. I liked it but not as much as the other two.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    George Orwell had a way of grabbing the reader’s attention with opening sentences. The first sentence of 1984, for example, has stuck in my mind since I first read the novel over forty years ago: “It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” The first sentence of this novel is just as memorable: “The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth”. If the opening of 1984 foreshadows the dystopia in which that novel is set, the opening of this one suggests the wo George Orwell had a way of grabbing the reader’s attention with opening sentences. The first sentence of 1984, for example, has stuck in my mind since I first read the novel over forty years ago: “It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” The first sentence of this novel is just as memorable: “The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth”. If the opening of 1984 foreshadows the dystopia in which that novel is set, the opening of this one suggests the work will possess a quality not usually associated with Orwell’s fiction, that is, humour. The novel does indeed contain quite a bit of humour. However, it’s not a lighthearted or frothy work. The narrator, George Bowling, decides to escape his unsatisfying life as an insurance salesman and family man for a brief holiday in his hometown. Before he embarks on that journey George recounts the story of his childhood and of his military service during World War I in an unsentimental tone that evokes both the positive and negative aspects of those experiences. In this part of the novel, Orwell paints a detailed portrait of life in early 20th century England, a way of life changed forever by the advent of WWI. Orwell wrote the novel between September 1938 and March 1939 in Morocco, where he went to recover from a bout of illness caused by the tuberculosis that eventually killed him. Like much of Orwell’s work, it focuses on a character who tries to escape from the life he’s destined to live. This was an important facet of Orwell’s own life. Moreover, having recently read Gordon Bowker’s excellent biography of Orwell, it was easy to see the effect on the work of some of Orwell’s other personal preoccupations. For example, Orwell has his narrator share his own interest in the natural world and particularly his passion for fishing. In addition, some of George Bowling’s experiences of trench warfare in France mirror his creator’s albeit briefer experiences of the Spanish Civil War.* Most significant is George Bowling’s pessimism about the direction in which the world is heading. The inevitability of WWII, the commencement of which was still three months away when the novel was published in June 1939, is the dark cloud hanging over this work. The fears Bowling expresses about the war to come, and more particularly about what will follow the war, are those that haunted Orwell. This is a short work, written in an easy conversational style. It’s sharply funny, witty and satirical. It includes a detailed description of fishing that some readers may find rather hard to get through, but I loved every word of it. Orwell was a masterful writer and the more of his writing I read, the more I appreciate his genius. *However, the way in which Orwell has George Bowling’s war end is quite different to anything Orwell experienced and a small masterpiece of comic absurdism.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    Narrated by George Bowling, a man in his late 40s, living in the suburbs with a wife and two children, with an unexciting but stable white collar job, this is a book of reminiscences and a nostalgic look back over his life. Overweight, and with false teeth,George is a first world war veteran, now working in insurance, travelling regularly in an escape from his wife and children. Set in the pre WWII early 1940s, this book takes us through the life of George Bowling, as a child and adolescent pre-W Narrated by George Bowling, a man in his late 40s, living in the suburbs with a wife and two children, with an unexciting but stable white collar job, this is a book of reminiscences and a nostalgic look back over his life. Overweight, and with false teeth,George is a first world war veteran, now working in insurance, travelling regularly in an escape from his wife and children. Set in the pre WWII early 1940s, this book takes us through the life of George Bowling, as a child and adolescent pre-WWI, in a town called Lower Binfield. It is not a particularly miserable childhood, but neither was he the popular boy. His time is the army was no less inspiring; following a minor injury at the front he was sent to a remote stores dump, where he was to monitor non-existent military stores. Once a month they sent me an enormous official form calling upon me to state the number and condition of pick-axes, entrenching tools, coils of barbed wire, blankets, waterproof groundsheets, first-aid outfits, sheets of corrugated iron, and tins of plum and apple jam under my care. I just entered 'nil' against everything and sent the form back. Nothing ever happened. Up in London someone was quietly filing the forms, and sending out more forms, and filing those, and so on. After ruminating about his life, and where he has ended up, George decides he deserves a holiday, to spend his seventeen quid he won on a horse, and has managed to keep secret from Hilda. On a whim decides to return to Lower Binfield, and catch those carp which he had somehow never got around to catching as a child. So this is not a high octane, thrill a minute book. In fact, very little happens, it is largely an internal monologue, and few people bother to interact with George very much. It is however well written, and descriptive in a depressingly British sort of a way. Worth a read to calm down between exciting books maybe? 4 stars because it was an enjoyable read, but only in a 'nothing-much-happens' kind of way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Coming Up for Air was written whilst Orwell was convalescing in Morocco in 1938, which would be a year after he returned from Spain in 1937, due to his tuberculosis which would hinder him until his death in 1950 (his convalescence didn't have much success apparently). Whilst not his most political novel (say, compared to his later works), still has quite an insightful aspect regarding life in Britain for the Lower Middle Class on the eve of a coming global cataclysm that everyone expects - and G Coming Up for Air was written whilst Orwell was convalescing in Morocco in 1938, which would be a year after he returned from Spain in 1937, due to his tuberculosis which would hinder him until his death in 1950 (his convalescence didn't have much success apparently). Whilst not his most political novel (say, compared to his later works), still has quite an insightful aspect regarding life in Britain for the Lower Middle Class on the eve of a coming global cataclysm that everyone expects - and George Bowling - the forty five year old protagonist, seeks some sort of solace in wanting to return to his youth where he he spent his adolescence in a small English Thameside village called Lower Binfield (fictional location, but realistic portrayal on any Middle England location). George Bowling is not really a happy man with his salesman job and his marriage, and he leads quite a mundane existence until he attends a Left Book Club meeting and the anti-fascist speaker makes him quite angry at the hate he spouts, along with some Communists who also were in attendance (nice little kick against what he experienced in Spain I assume). It encourages his and his unhappy, dreary life to want to return to Little Binfield on his own - away from his wife and dreary job, which he decides to do in secret. Modernity appears to be not all cracked up to be as it is/was. Whilst the 19th Century is known for the slow dispersion into larger towns and cities from the countryside - from an predominately agrarian population in Britain to a urban dwelling one, then this contrast is almost reversed in Little Binfield with that rural community being slowly eradicated/amalgamated into a large town with industrial production, from a population moving out to find work, the opposite occurs - people and businesses move in; such is the state of the place when George returns for a (secret) week away. His old haunts as a youth have all been built over - Little Binfield should now be called Big Binfield realistically. Social change is key to this novel - an expected coming global conflict (1941 is the date it is assumed to take place according to the protagonist), modernisation, and possibly a disrespect towards nature (with trees and lakes and so on being concreted over for the new 'modern' housing estates to house the workers in the new factories), as well as the new military airdrome a few miles away, with regular flyovers by the 'black bombers', and so on. George Bowling ends up staying in a new hotel in the town, drinking too much (the first day there he consumes two bottles of wine, several pints and brandy - nice one George) more out of a sense of depression that all the population, shops and locations are new to him, and those romantic feelings of returning to ones youth and childhood - when life 'appeared' to be simpler are completely crushed and disillusioned. Coming Up for Air was the last novel George Orwell wrote before Animal Farm. There is still, as I mentioned above, a little kick against the Communist Party (the Left Book Club meeting Bowling attends), as well as against vegetarians and from I perceive to be 'new age' folk of that time (he writes a quite incisive critique better in Part Two of 'The Road to Wigan Pier', but you can see where he gets it from). Personally, I found it a 'filler', which it was meant to be I assume, before the much more political Animal Farm and later 1984, coming after Homage to Catalonia (and it didn't sell much, just like Homage), but there is a genesis of his later thoughts regarding both Soviet Communism and the Capitalist work ethic (and dreary mundane existences). I would give it 3.5, but seeing as there is an almost silly scene whereby one of the 'black bombers' accidentally drop a bomb on the large town whilst Bowling is staying there (metaphor?), then I have to lower it to a 3.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Atri

    Brimming with typical Orwellian dark humour and cynicism, but brilliantly evocative and astonishingly prescient.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Loretta

    I usually don't like books written in first person but sometimes authors who write that way do grab my attention and it's an enjoyable read. Sadly this book didn't grab my attention. Humorous to a degree and that's why I rated the book three ⭐️⭐️⭐️'s. I usually don't like books written in first person but sometimes authors who write that way do grab my attention and it's an enjoyable read. Sadly this book didn't grab my attention. Humorous to a degree and that's why I rated the book three ⭐️⭐️⭐️'s.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    Loved it, just loved it. Orwell is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Love his humour, wit and sarcasm. Lovely story about nostalgia which I would definitely read again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toria

    I have read George Orwell's most popular books and one slightly less so and now this and I very much want to read more. He has an way with the pen that makes his stories so intriguing to read, where other authors might have failed. This was a bit if a bleak novel but very engaging to read and while it wasn't the happiest as I said, I did enjoy my reading experience with this one I have read George Orwell's most popular books and one slightly less so and now this and I very much want to read more. He has an way with the pen that makes his stories so intriguing to read, where other authors might have failed. This was a bit if a bleak novel but very engaging to read and while it wasn't the happiest as I said, I did enjoy my reading experience with this one

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    After listening to a terrific audio book version of Animal Farm on youtube, I found an even more delightful audio book version of this other Orwellian novel and enjoyed the heck out of it--an Australian actor reads it, I believe, judging from his pronunciation of the word "kids." Listening rather than reading may have caused me to pass over some of the more darkly ironic bits (judging from the other reviews here)--also the reader is just so convincing! (It's difficult to laugh at someone when yo After listening to a terrific audio book version of Animal Farm on youtube, I found an even more delightful audio book version of this other Orwellian novel and enjoyed the heck out of it--an Australian actor reads it, I believe, judging from his pronunciation of the word "kids." Listening rather than reading may have caused me to pass over some of the more darkly ironic bits (judging from the other reviews here)--also the reader is just so convincing! (It's difficult to laugh at someone when you feel like they're in the room with you telling their story.) Still, I was unexpectedly drawn into this novel, having no expectations, and quickly became hooked on this bored, nostalgic, everyman character. What struck me most was the charming wistfulness of our narrator, George Bowling, and his nostalgia for the miserable, poverty-ridden and unfair world in which he grew up, which is, however, completely understandable as he's now living in a newer, more boring (if perhaps more materially comfortable), tract-home, middle-class post WWI world. (The situation reminded me of the opening of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in which the narrator comes across a book of Holocaust photos and experiences the shame of being prompted by the photos to feel nostalgic for his lost childhood, since it was of the same time period as WWII.) George's situation is as charming as it is tragic, as he pines for his youth although it's filled, to hear him tell it, with misery and uncertainty: the demise of his father's business, his parents' deaths, and the waywardness of his brother. Then comes the absurdity of WWI, which wipes George's old word and personal past aside and sets both he and England on a whole new path... The novel takes an even darker turn, then, when George attends an anti-fascist lecture and the specter of the coming second world war comes to threaten once again to destroy even the boring complacency of the narrator's nostalgia. While he tries to recapture his past with a clandestine trip back to the hometown we've heard so much about, the specter of both modernity and the coming war overshadow everything. Yet George is so irascible and pessimistic, he's hardly fazed. I feel like the novel is both a hymn to and a scathing attack on phlegmatic British stiff-upper-lipness. (A student told me the other day that the Japanese build such fragile paper houses because there are so many natural disasters in Japan, they've adapted to the impermanence in the construction of their dwellings. Seems like the English have adapted to misery and endless war through a combination of pessimism and stoicism, no? "Keep Calm and Carry On--you knew it would be a shit life from the start, Grahame.) This is heavy stuff so winningly, lightly, and charmingly narrated it actually strikes home harder, in the end, than a lot of other more obviously between-the-wars potboilers and texts warning of the evils of fascism. I enjoyed the heck out of it, smiling and wincing by turns.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lorenzo Berardi

    This is my fifth Orwell and the one I liked the most, so far. I reckon how I should reread (and in English at this time) both "1984" and "Animal Farm" before putting "Coming Up for Air" on top, but at the moment it stands there. So why have I liked this novel so much? Oh, there are several and kind of personal reasons. To begin with, I had the chance to spend some time in the tiny village of Sutton Courtenay where Eric Arthur Blair better known as George Orwell rests. Sutton Courtenay is just a This is my fifth Orwell and the one I liked the most, so far. I reckon how I should reread (and in English at this time) both "1984" and "Animal Farm" before putting "Coming Up for Air" on top, but at the moment it stands there. So why have I liked this novel so much? Oh, there are several and kind of personal reasons. To begin with, I had the chance to spend some time in the tiny village of Sutton Courtenay where Eric Arthur Blair better known as George Orwell rests. Sutton Courtenay is just a little corner of Oxfordshire without a single shop, two or three pubs and a church with the graveyard hosting the tombs of Orwell and the former British prime minister Lord Asquith. There are plenty of bunnies popping up in the fields and the funny statue of a dog guarding up the porch of an old mansion. The river Thames flows nearby. A perfectly functioning lock let the boats go by. It's just a coincidence that Orwell ended up in Sutton Courtenay at the end of his way too short days, but as a matter of fact he spent some time wandering and wondering around there when he was a kid. Now, what "Coming Up for Air" is if not an elegy of a similar corner of Oxfordshire? You can really picture young Eric Arthur spending his time fishing along the grassy banks of the river back in the old days and riding his fixed-wheel bicycle up and down a little hill. The imaginary town of Lower Binfield reminded me of Abingdon, where I currently live, with its market square, its High Street, its beer factory chimney and the bygone shops swallowed by the big distribution. The only difference is that Orwell wrote about this "lost England" at the end of the 1930s sighing for how much things changed in a span of only thirty years. And the way this dull, but peaceful Lower Binfield has given way to an industrial, red-bricked town populated by people coming from Lancashire or Staffordshire and with no roots in Oxfordshire is masterfully rendered. I could actually do what George Bowling, the protagonist of this novel, did escaping from a monotonous family life in some pointless London suburb to come back to the places of his childhood. It's just that I don't have an idyllic place to come back to. So, it's mostly about memories, childhood memories, and the bitter but sharp reflections of a fatty man who lost his momentum. But there is also some devastating humour in this book and the foresight of the imminence of World War II. Oh well, the whole list of the reasons why I liked "Coming Up for Air" may take too much time and far too many words to be done. But let's add a last one: I now know the English names of a dozen river fish. I bet you were not expecting this bit of knowledge from a book by Orwell. Weren't you?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vinny

    This book is amazing. I rarely connect on multiply levels with characters in books, but I have a huge connection with Tubby Bowling. I see myself in him, or I should say I could see my life going down his path, because he is disappointed with his life and where is at. He had a lot of big dreams but they all fell one by one to end as an insurance salesman with a decent house in suburbia and a disliked family. This is one of Orwell's forgotten masterpieces in that few look beyond his 1984 or Anima This book is amazing. I rarely connect on multiply levels with characters in books, but I have a huge connection with Tubby Bowling. I see myself in him, or I should say I could see my life going down his path, because he is disappointed with his life and where is at. He had a lot of big dreams but they all fell one by one to end as an insurance salesman with a decent house in suburbia and a disliked family. This is one of Orwell's forgotten masterpieces in that few look beyond his 1984 or Animal Farm to see his other works, and that is a shame. The first half of the story is of Tubby reminiscing about his childhood; the second half is his attempt to regain it. The scene where he picks flowers struck me as beautiful. All his actions and thoughts are just about mine. Rarely does somebody bring a character to life for me, but Orwell succeeded with this one. My favorite line was when he was talking about his wife he doesn't like anymore and that is "I actually thought seriously about killing her for the first two years of our marriage, but after that I didn't care enough to do that." The flowers scene is of Tubby enjoying spring for the first time in a long while, to the point of picking flowers. But as a car of teens drive by, he becomes disillusioned as realizes he is just a fat nobody that will be forgotten by history in a matter of years. I think this might be a fear of mine, to get stuck in a suburban hell of brat children and an annoying wife. The first part of the book showcases Orwell’s socialist leanings but he lightens up after about 50 pages. This book is a must read for any Orwell fan. Honestly I doubt most people will like this book, but if you enjoy the books I rated well, then you will almost certainly love this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    The best of Orwell’s pre-war novels. It also seems the most his own. Burmese Days apes Somerset Maugham; A Clergyman’s Daughter apes Joyce; Keep the Aspidistra Flying apes Gissing. But Coming up for Air apes no one. Orwell seems to finally realise the crisp, colloquial tone of his essays and non-fiction is the way forward. There is no feeling of the author getting up on stilts. For the first time - in the novels - the voice is as natural and easy as breathing. It helps that George ‘Fatty’ Bowlin The best of Orwell’s pre-war novels. It also seems the most his own. Burmese Days apes Somerset Maugham; A Clergyman’s Daughter apes Joyce; Keep the Aspidistra Flying apes Gissing. But Coming up for Air apes no one. Orwell seems to finally realise the crisp, colloquial tone of his essays and non-fiction is the way forward. There is no feeling of the author getting up on stilts. For the first time - in the novels - the voice is as natural and easy as breathing. It helps that George ‘Fatty’ Bowling is the most likeable of Orwell’s characters - down to earth, modest, self-depreciating, and, unusually, no cynic.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

    George Bowling is overweight working in a dull job, married to Hilda with two kids living in a square box suburb in London. He is going through a midlife crisis and one day recalls his childhood with nostalgia. He then secretly embarks on a journey to recapture his childhood days in Lower Binford. What he finds is time changes everything. The story is set just before WW2 and Orwell captures the atmosphere well and his predictions are not far off the mark. Coming up for air results in George find George Bowling is overweight working in a dull job, married to Hilda with two kids living in a square box suburb in London. He is going through a midlife crisis and one day recalls his childhood with nostalgia. He then secretly embarks on a journey to recapture his childhood days in Lower Binford. What he finds is time changes everything. The story is set just before WW2 and Orwell captures the atmosphere well and his predictions are not far off the mark. Coming up for air results in George finding out that nothing stays the same.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephen McQuiggan

    Orwell's cynicism is a breath of fresh air in these insincere, 'we're all in it together' times. The spectre of war hangs heavy here, but it is the spectre of relentless modernisation that is the more dangerous, silent, threat. Orwell, as always, is bang on the money in his ornery and bitter brilliance. Orwell's cynicism is a breath of fresh air in these insincere, 'we're all in it together' times. The spectre of war hangs heavy here, but it is the spectre of relentless modernisation that is the more dangerous, silent, threat. Orwell, as always, is bang on the money in his ornery and bitter brilliance.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anna Chetwynd

    How can this book, written on the eve of the Second World War, be so modern in feel? It's extraordinary. The life of an average Everyman George Bowling, who takes a spontaneous trip on the proceeds of some winnings at the races, abandoning wife and the suburbs and heading off on an odyssey to an England that has changed in the space of a few years and is about to change even more brutally very quickly. Like all Orwell's writing, there is a sense of us watching an apocalypse either happening, abou How can this book, written on the eve of the Second World War, be so modern in feel? It's extraordinary. The life of an average Everyman George Bowling, who takes a spontaneous trip on the proceeds of some winnings at the races, abandoning wife and the suburbs and heading off on an odyssey to an England that has changed in the space of a few years and is about to change even more brutally very quickly. Like all Orwell's writing, there is a sense of us watching an apocalypse either happening, about to happen or living in the aftermath of one. With 1984, it was a strange new order, the future imagined, a twisted England, now the base of many dystopian fantasies. But with book is not a dystopia. It is still very much 1930's England, the suburbs a metro land sprawl, the village of his childhood altered but still glimpses of a charming, bucolic delight, full of memories lost but appearing like joyful bubbles amidst the harsh changes he finds elsewhere. And through it all the horrific sense of foreboding, the rise of Fascism apparent in the simple provincial altercations he perceives, mans desire to crush and destroy another played out against a parochial background, the mundane nature of the horror and cruelty to come. An incredible book and totally underrated.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura Daly

    So I finished Coming Up for Air this week and I am remined how brilliant it is. George Browning is trapped in Suburbia of the 1930s and he does a beautiful job of describing it to us. He narrates his life in a sleepy home counties town he describes his family beautifully, his boyhood and his fishing. His days as a grocer's assistant and his fishing. The little details of both people and surroundings are wonderful. It brings to life the very moments he is describing. George tries to go back to th So I finished Coming Up for Air this week and I am remined how brilliant it is. George Browning is trapped in Suburbia of the 1930s and he does a beautiful job of describing it to us. He narrates his life in a sleepy home counties town he describes his family beautifully, his boyhood and his fishing. His days as a grocer's assistant and his fishing. The little details of both people and surroundings are wonderful. It brings to life the very moments he is describing. George tries to go back to the old days but finds he can not. As always Orwell deals with class, social history, the mundane and the very things that keep humans being humans. A 1930s Reggie Perrin. I have to say I felt for George we have all tried as we get older to regain our childhood. Orwell at his brilliant best.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Büşra

    Well now, this is what I call an interesting book. Orwell is one of my favorite authors. I think pretty much everything he wrote is worth reading but there is so much complexity to this novel. The first thing I thought was the fact that you could see 1984 & Animal Farm coming reading that book. The brilliant thing about his writing is that Orwell has such a sharp wit, he is an intellectual and his satire makes everything better. What I didn’t like about Coming Up for Air was the ryhtm. Even thou Well now, this is what I call an interesting book. Orwell is one of my favorite authors. I think pretty much everything he wrote is worth reading but there is so much complexity to this novel. The first thing I thought was the fact that you could see 1984 & Animal Farm coming reading that book. The brilliant thing about his writing is that Orwell has such a sharp wit, he is an intellectual and his satire makes everything better. What I didn’t like about Coming Up for Air was the ryhtm. Even though it was both sad and beautiful and also funny at the same time, it doesn’t really get interesting much. It’s all rambling from beginning to the end. To me, this isn’t his best work and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would but I still think it’s worth reading if you are a fan of Orwell.

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