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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the reputation - vintage Orwell
Despite its bad press (even Orwell himself didn't like it), 'A Clergyman's Daughter' is well worth a read.

If it was by a lesser author it would probably have a much stronger reputation than it does. As it is, yes it definitely is the weakest of his novels, but as an evocative panorama of life below-the-breadline in depression-era England it is fantastic. A lot...
Published on 1 May 2011 by Thomas G. J. Theakston

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and yet not really very good
George Orwell was a great English writer whose reputation has suffered from the tendency in English culture to regard the novel (and the poem) as the supreme test of a writer's worth. Orwell was clearly at his most stimulated and inspired as a writer when he had something urgent to say, but having something urgent to say is not always the best attitude to have when you...
Published on 20 Aug 2008 by lexo1941


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the reputation - vintage Orwell, 1 May 2011
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
Despite its bad press (even Orwell himself didn't like it), 'A Clergyman's Daughter' is well worth a read.

If it was by a lesser author it would probably have a much stronger reputation than it does. As it is, yes it definitely is the weakest of his novels, but as an evocative panorama of life below-the-breadline in depression-era England it is fantastic. A lot of the scenarios (hop-picking in Kent; homeless in Trafalgar Square) will be familiar to anyone who's read Orwell's diaries or some of his essays, but alongside the unforgettable school-teaching scenes and the brilliant descriptions of life in a small, petty, curtain-twitching village, the book as whole is as good as any account I've read of what it was like to be on the fringes of society and struggling for money in the early '30s.

The general criticisms of the novel are all entirely valid. Dorothy's amnesia is never properly explained; the hop-picking scenes are too descriptive and close to Orwell's reportage diaries of his time doing this; and the 'experimental' scenes around Trafalgar Square get rather annoying and skippable after the first couple of pages; BUT, if you go into the novel, as I did, prepared for these things, then they really don't matter, and didn't mar my enjoyment of it as a whole. What was good was VERY good, enough so to make up for the weaknesses. In particular I think the chapter of the book in which Dorothy becomes a school-teacher ranks up there with anything Orwell wrote, especially in his characterisation of the detestable Mrs Creevy and the way he describes the gradual disintegration of Dorothy's initial enthusiasm and promise.

I tend to be very nostalgic and sentimental about inter-war England (the beautiful monochrome photos of Bill Brandt, the booze-soaked melancholy of Patrick Hamilton....), but novels like this one, alongside 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' and 'Coming Up For Air', are reminders of just how grim life was for probably the vast majority of people at this time. I would actually recommend considering these three novels as a sort of Orwellian '30s triptych, and think that read in order of publication (Daughter; Aspidistra; Air) they will each work best both as novels and as unforgettable historical documents. The looming threat of the Second World War is almost pysically tangible as they go on, a shadow crossing the landscape of these books, getting darker and heavier right the way through...

So don't be wary about trying this one. I was put off for ages because of its reputation, but am glad I eventually took the plunge. If you're interested in Orwell, or in the '30s generally, it is a must-read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic, but still genuine Orwell, 22 April 2006
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
This is a fine book, but it suffers as it is judged against Orwell's amazing canon of classic novels that have stood the test of time. Where it remains valid today is in the sense of futileness. It is in a sense an existential examination of what life is all about. Why do we struggle? Why to we make an effort and why bother? The horrified reaction of the parents when they find their girls have been taught English from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' is because of their realisation that one of the final plot-twists in the classic text requires understanding of what a Caesarean-section involves. They prefer ignorance to understanding. Orwell again identifies yet another issue that plagues modern society, in that we prefer to judge learning at school by league tables, rather than understanding.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and yet not really very good, 20 Aug 2008
By 
lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
George Orwell was a great English writer whose reputation has suffered from the tendency in English culture to regard the novel (and the poem) as the supreme test of a writer's worth. Orwell was clearly at his most stimulated and inspired as a writer when he had something urgent to say, but having something urgent to say is not always the best attitude to have when you are trying to write a novel. It certainly wasn't the best attitude for Orwell to have when he wrote this one, considering that when he wrote it he was really beginning to find his vocation as a political writer and that he was also (at the time) impressed and intimidated by the example of Joyce's 'Ulysses', which he'd just read. 'Ulysses' has a political dimension, but it is the work of a very different kind of writer. The result is a fascinating and disjointed mish-mash of a novel, and Orwell knew it; even while he was writing it, he was writing to friends to say that he was making a mess of it.

In spite of this, any fan of Orwell will have a soft spot for 'A Clergyman's Daughter', if only because it's this writer's most conspicuous failure. Some of it, the depiction of the heroine's awful and cramped life as the daughter of a snobbish and mean-minded clergyman, plus the vivid accounts of hop-picking and teaching in a cheap and nasty school, are unforgettable. Against that, you have to cope with the fairly implausible story (why and how does Dorothy lose her memory?), the shallow characterisation and the fairly woeful 'experimental' chapter in which Dorothy attempts to spend a night among the homeless in Trafalgar Square, the whole thing rendered as a clunky pastiche of a chapter in 'Ulysses'.

Orwell tried to digest his own personal experiences into fictional form, and in this case he failed. But it's an honourable failure; the book may not hang together as a fully realised work of art, but not many novels of the period were able to back up their mood of societal disillusionment with such excruciating and convincing detail. If you have never read Orwell, don't start here; try the essays, '1984' and 'Animal Farm', the finest products of his moral and political imagination. If you have read them already, this is a fascinating sidetrack. Orwell was right to think the book not good, but I for one am glad that his wish that it not be reprinted after his death has been disregarded. Dodgy as it is, it's still very interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still politicising young girls to this day, 15 Mar 2013
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This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
Like a lot of people I was 'given' Orwell to read at school and it was a case of 'OK, yeah, I can see what he's getting at but would I actually want to pick up anything by him to read for pleasure'? Then, a few years later I discovered The Clergyman's Daughter and I was hooked. Now I hasten to add that it wasn't Mr Orwell I got hooked on but just the book itself, so I can understand why this isn't Orwell purists' favourite work of his. The whole idea of a woman going from her cosseted life to an alien world which is basically on her doorstep and becoming politicised stayed with me years after reading it. I had a copy on my bookshelf for ages and kept meaning to take it down for a re-read/reassessment, it wasn't until I read The Rachel Redemption recently and was very much struck by the similarities to TC'sD (Dorothy is now the Princess Diana type wife, of a Tony Blair type PM, who gets radicalised - trust me, it works!)that I was prompted to re-read. And yes, the verdict is a positive one, maybe I was just a little more receptive all those years ago but I still think it's intelligent, inspiring and a good read. Maybe a bit 'girly' for the purists but then if it inspires young girls, why not?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Orwell's best, most underrated, 28 Nov 2011
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This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
I can see why this book wasn't highly rated. It doesn't involve any interesting or extraordianry character, it doesn't have sad ending (which one half expect from Orwell's book) nor happy ending. It appear to end as it begun. Some might see this as a book of emptiness. But I found this book genuinely inspiring. In this book the character Dorophy, the clergyman's daughter is leading a hopeless life, facing debt and selfish father. As a reader I felt sorry for her and hope things would change, so when she lost memory and found herself turned up in London, I thought here comes the changes, and of course it didn't turn out well, she went begging, hop-picking, teaching, attempting to reform teaching, being fired and then being rescued.... One would thought after all the experience, things would be different, at least she'd try to make a difference for herself. But it didn't happen, she turned down Mr. Warburton (her suitor) and continue to work in the church and continue to head towards the invitable - aging, poor, unmarried, jobless and hopeless, all because she was too busy with the amount of work in front of her. Is it what majority of the people are experiencing? Knowing that if you continue this way there'll be no hope, but you still continue to do so because you are too busy for change, too busy to make a difference for your life, and then hope against hope that things will turn out fine even if you don't do anything about it?

Truely inspiring book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social commentary - what Orwell does best!, 10 Jan 2010
By 
J. Sutton (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
Written in 1935, two years after the non-fiction "Down and Out in Paris and London", the story draws from personal experience and is obviously the result of meticulous research

Nave Rector's daughter Dorothy lives a monotonous life, acting as unpaid curate for her father and getting involved with parish life, trying to... manage on a meagre budget and to ignore the poisonous tongue of gossip Mrs Semprill. She accepts her lot without complaint, but one day she wakes up in London with no recollection of who she is, or how she got there. From here, her life becomes bleak and hard as she struggles to survive, but along the way she meets many people in the same situation by her and there is a certain amount of camaraderie and solidarity between them, meaning that although a lot of the book paints a rather bleak picture, it is also uplifting in places.

The novel is interspersed with comments about education and class that are clearly Orwell's voice/opinion and not really connected to the actual story. Although Orwell disliked this book, I really enjoyed it! I do like his writing about poverty in the 1930s, whether fact or fiction, (I don't know what that says about me!), and I think "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" is of a similar nature so I am looking forward to reading this at some stage.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lesser piece by a great writer but still a must read., 29 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
I personally like and enjoy this book though Orwell disowned it in later life. He felt that it was comprised by editing. This is a lot like like 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' in feeling and I think of them both as similar.
It is an enjoyable read with several sections of descriptive prose like that found in Down and Out. One of my favourite sections is when Dorothy is working at the school. The fate of the 3D map is a warning to all of us who innervate.
Another phase which has always stuck with me is the hop-pickers giving away food which otherwise would just go to waste.
This is a good book to sit down with when you want to read a work that is well written clever and thought provoking without been difficult or obtuse.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The adventures of a Vicar's daughter, 15 Feb 2001
By A Customer
On the surface, 'A Clergyman's daughter' charts the adventures of Dorothy, only child of the Reverend Charles Hare, Vicar of St. Athelstan's, Knype Hill, Suffolk. Yet, the book is typical Orwell: we are told that the Vicar is unable to afford a Curate, so he leaves the dirty work of the parish to her, after the death of his wife, such as distributing parish magazines and rubbing old ladies' legs with Elliman's embrocation. The Vicar lived in the past, in his "golden Oxford days, when such vulgar things as tradesmen's bills didn't exist". Consequently, Dorothy has a constant struggle with money, as a result of her father's "investments", the blight of most clergymen with an inheritance - he is the grandson of a baronet. Dorothy is used to describe the stereotypical characters she comes into contact with.
The story really picks up after her helping in the preparations for the Festival Day with Victor Stone, the schoolmaster with controversial ideas. She has taken home the unfinished jackboots for the children's pageant. Late at night, when heating the glue, something happens to her after inhaling the fumes and succumbing to tiredness. The scene transposes to the New King's Road, London, in stark contrast to the comfortable Rectory.
She has lost her memory and falls in with some people hoping to find employment hop-picking. After a long journey and many failures, they are successful at Cairns's Farm, Clintock. At this point, the narrative lapses into the semi-autobiographical mode inherent in so much of Orwell's fiction, much of it being coloured by experience. The graphic description of hop-picking, and the absence of characters in parts of it is evidence, and a prime example of his characteristic fusion of investigative work and experience of Down and Out in Paris and London (a link to this may be found in the Trafalgar Square scene, where Dorothy ends up with a group of down-and-outs) with the stereotypical portrayal of 'Mondeo Man's' precursor in Coming up for Air. Orwell shunned 'conventional' society in parts of his life in order to 'see how the other half lives'. He championed the ill-educated, untold masses, at a time when socialism, communism and radical politics were at a zenith. A lot of his work is a form of investigative journalism, and The Road to Wigan Pier is the best example of this.
Orwell spent part of his life teaching, and we are treated to vivid descriptions of the conditions prevailing in third- and fourth-rate fee-paying schools. There was more emphasis on profit than actual education. The "Ringwood House Academy, Brough Road, Southbridge," and its proprietress, Mrs. Creevy, represented to profusion of such establishments. For example, Mrs. Creevy lays particular emphasis on handwriting-lessons and skills that the parents will see as "practical", rather than educating them. They are forced to memorise horrid little "readers", containing potted accounts of England's history. Thus, the pupils are ill motivated and hate the teachers. When Dorothy arrives, she sets about buying new books with some of her meagre savings and although lacking in previous experience, sets about teaching them to think for themselves and giving them individual attention.
But the badly educated, prejudiced and interfering parents exacerbate the situation, and the worst point is reached when they do Macbeth. The children go home asking what a womb is, and after a scene, she is forced back to the old, practical method. The children rebel.
Eventually, she is rescued by a friend from Knype Hill, Mr. Warburton, with whom the village scandalmongers had assumed Dorothy to have eloped. Despite attempts to dissuade her from becoming a "derelict parson's daughter, like the ten thousand others", and give him her hand in marriage, she refused, and was soon back into the old routine. She found affairs in the village little-changed in her absence, and what is most ironic is that her Faith, which in the beginning was an integral part of her, and important to her, has now been lost. However much she tries to find it again, it will not return. Faith, assumed constant, has in this instance exchanged places with ever-changing time, and leads to questions about the meaning of life itself, in light of experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Reading, 25 July 2014
By 
This was the first Orwell novel I have read and I have to say it was a real delight to read. There are some wonderfully written sentences which I found reading myself reading over and over again. I was surprised that Orwell did not like this work and refused to let it be published again. I found it a truly delightful read. It's certainly left me wanting to read more of his work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A clergyman's daughter, 14 Sep 2013
This book is very readable, and is in fact a polemic. It depicts the daughter of the rector of a run-down parish in East Anglia who ends uphop-picking, then with the down-and-outs on the streets of London, then in a third-rate school in South London.
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A Clergyman's Daughter
A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell (Paperback - 28 Sep 2000)
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