Sunday, September 25, 2016

Keep the aspidistra flying

First published in 1936, this book by George Orwell is largely about money - at least money, or lack of it, in the world of Gordon Comstock. Orwell provides a clue to this at the beginning of the novel by providing an adapted quote of I Corinthians chapter XIII where the word money has been substituted for the word love.

Gordon Comstock has given up a well paid job in an advertising agency to devote his life to writing poetry. The novel is written from Gordon's viewpoint as he struggles to survive with limited pay from working in a bookshop during the day and writing his poetry at night. Gordon makes it clear that he hates money and all that it represents but he needs money to survive. He resents friends who have money though he has no qualms about borrowing from his sister who he knows will not refuse him even though she cannot afford to keep bailing him out. Gordon is a depressing character who does little to try and improve his situation. He is unkind to friends, including his girlfriend Rosemary, who try to help him. It is only at the end of the book when he is forced to make a life changing decision that he reluctantly decides to review his lifestyle.

I found this a difficult novel to read primarily as the character of Gordon annoyed me. The book is set in England during the 1930s Depression. Initially it was interesting to view his decisions and struggles but as the story progresses, his self pity increased along with his refusal to take advantage of chances to improve his situation. I had to force myself to finish reading the book.

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