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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff - Definitely worth reading.
What always strikes me about Orwell's writing is the amount of meaning he imbues into such apparently simple language. More than anything this book is utterly readable, but while being easy to read you constantly have the feeling that you are learning a lot - and I mean that in a good way. After reading a single chapter about an episode in a character's past, you come out...
Published on 10 Feb. 2010 by Garth Algar

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18 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Orwell's best
Coming Up For Air is a pleasant enough chronicle of one man's failed attempt to retreat to the security of his childhood. George Bowling is unhappy with himself, his menial job, expanding waist and receding hairline. He is also unhappy with the world at large and the war that he fears to be inevitibly on the horizon. He therefore decides to return to the town in which he...
Published on 27 Aug. 2003 by mjruscoe


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine rendition of boyhood, 7 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Orwell is a master and once I turned the first couple of pages I remembered why. This evocatation of a time now well past has so many resonences with the childhood that I had in the 50s and 60s. He writes so well that, even though we were separated by half the country and half a century of time, I could sense that we had shared experience. The love of the countryside and all that is in it is juxtaposed with a desire to kill small animals. The fascination with life yet the desire to capture it is there too. Throughout is the gathering cloud of war made all the more chilling because the storm of the previous war has only just gone by. There are some awful insights into the sexual politics of marriage in the early part of the 20th century. It was my second visit to the book and I was very pleased I'd gone back to it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great slice of pre-WW2 English literature, 5 July 2012
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
My preoccupation with British literature set in the immediate pre-WW2 era and in, or around, London continues. I recently read Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics) by Patrick Hamilton and that kick started 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 (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Slaves of Solitude
Of Love and Hunger (Penguin Modern Classics)

...it's a rich vein that I continue to mine.

"Coming Up For Air" was my first George Orwell since "Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics)" a few years back (whilst preoccupied with books about the Spanish Civil War). I'd also read "Nineteen Eighty-four" and "Animal Farm: A Fairy Story" 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 (Vintage classics)" (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 "1984" 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 "1984".

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 (Penguin Modern Classics)" 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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be more popular than it is, 29 Nov. 2011
By 
J. Willis (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The plot for this novel is very simple; George Bowling is a fat, forty five year old man who looks around at his life and wonders just how did he get here? After winning some money which he conceals from his wife, Bowling decides to use it to take a trip down memory lane and revisit his old childhood town.

"It must have been in 1930 that I got fat. It happened so suddenly that it was as if a cannon ball had hit me and got stuck inside. You know how it is. One night you go to bed, still feeling more or less young, with an eye for the girls and so forth, and next morning you wake up in the full consciousness that you're just a poor old fatty with nothing ahead of you this side the grave except sweating your guts out to buy boots for the kids."

The narrative mostly contains Bowling's own observations on his boyhood and British life during the 1930s as he tries to cope with the impeding threat of the Second World War and the changing world he finds himself in. The narrator himself stops the novel slipping into a rose-tinted haze by not being altogether likeable and yet despite this he is very ordinary.

This might all sound thoroughly depressing but it contains some wonderful humour (very cynical humour) as Bowling's gives his observations in his wry way.

"When a woman's bumped off, her husband is always the first suspect--which
gives you a little side-glimpse of what people really think about marriage."

His childhood is looked back on with nostalgia which only causes disappointment when he does finally make his way back to his home town. This novel was published in 1939 but how many of us now can go back to a childhood town and think that everything seems so much smaller and see that the small business where you brought your sweets from has been taken over by a large chain-store? Everything changes including towns and cities and Bowling is uneasy and scared about it, by going back to his youth he believes he can once again be free to breathe.

Coming Up for Air is a real treat and even if you haven't given Orwell a try before I recommend this.

"Is it gone forever? I'm not certain. But I tell you it was a good world to live in. I belong to it. So do you."
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally realistic fictional biography..., 4 July 2002
By 
S. JENKIN (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
...of a life that Orwell as an individual was never really a part of, making it all the more a masterpiece.
This is definately a must-read piece literature for the modern youth who, without the understanding of the past will never learn to overcome the barriers that were faced in the described periods [~1900-1938] (e.g. ignorance to the fallacy of war being fun and beneficial, and the inability of youths to understand that overweight people or those over 30 are actually human too etc., which can be overcome simply by reading Bowling's chillingly sad contrasts of being young and old, thin and fat etc.). The novel also really encapsulates the early-20th century transitions that occured socially and geographically in semi-rural England; the whole rags-and-rich-sole to riches-and-no-sole industrialisational process which seemingly struck, as well as themes which have nothing to do with the setting in particular - aging, social acceptance and the dead-endness of 'modern' married/white collar life in particular. Mature readers will surely be able to relate to Bowling in his disgruntled approach to change, as the change is from something that he loves to something that he hates, but as he describes - the new people of Lower Binfield have no concept of pre-ww1 Lower Binfield and so don't really care about what he has to say, and so he is resigned to accept that he is merely a relic of the past, a 'ghost', as Orwell puts it.
Apart from this exquisite narrative of the transitions in the period, Orwell is also extremely witty with his writing, whilst still being very readable for any lay-man. He uses the title 'Coming Up For Air' to describe Bowling's situation; currently being underwater and suffocating in his current lifestyle and feeling an inner desire to breathe again by 'coming up for air' (by going back to his youth, where he was free to breathe). In the same way he compares the situation to being under a great heap of garbage and trying to come up for air.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 21 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
One of the best books by Orwell!

I dare say that if you are 18 this book won't have quite so many points of contact as it does for those of us creeping towards and through middle age. But the recollection of youth and all its pleasures and pitfalls is truely perfect. Looking back through ones life and the family history, realising as you get older that no one cares about what was/is important to you, the opportunities lost and the knowledge of why they were lost (or simply let go rather than actively avoided)... but equally these things are not remembered in a negative manner. There's a certain age weary resignation to it, certainly, but one that I think people (of a certain age) will recognise and have an affinity with.

A fabulous read...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books., 7 Sept. 2008
By 
G. E. Mitchell (Bletchley,Milton Keynes) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I think all Orwell`s books are brilliant but I love this one the most, having just read it again for the umpteenth time. How this book can seemingly be overlooked by so many people is beyond me.

I am in my early sixties so I suppose that I can just about relate to the kind of world which George Bowling grew up in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't look back!, 1 Jun. 2013
By 
Mr. Timothy W. Dumble (Sunderland, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Orwell convincingly encapsulates the pre war zeitgeist in this darkly humorous middle aged reverie written in his crisp, uncomplicated narrative style. He is a master of introspection and through George Bowling offers the reader a sardonic social commentary on the middle classes- the obsession with money and fear of debt, the guilt associated with enjoyment and the relentless pursuit of self improvement.

Bowling hilariously personifies the self imposed entrapment of middle age - the marriage, parental responsibility, mortgage and lack of time for oneself. His personal trials and tribulations are played out against the ominous backdrop of the inevitability of war which hangs over the narrative like a London smog.

As the blurb acknowledges, the seeds of much of Orwell's later, defining works are clearly present in this narrative- a nascent Animal Farm and in George Bowling an embryonic Winston Smith. The reader is also left wondering how much of the narrative is autobiographical, giving a tantalising insight into the life of the author.

The strong message of Coming up for Air is not to obsess about the past or to worry unduly about a future over which we have little control but to focus on the present. George Bowling's failure to catch the giant carp is a warning to us all - do things now while we still can.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Precursor of 1984, 13 Dec. 2012
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A wonderful evocation of an earlier Edwardian childhood which raises ideas of the role of memory and perspective. Orwell's work, published in 1939, provides a first person account of a middle aged mans preoccupation with the village of his childhood, his uneventful and loveless life and the prospect of war where the tyranny of the rubber truncheon will win. The shadow of 1984 hangs over the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, pathetic, funny, 16 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Every time I read this book, I am reminded of the frailty of the human species. George Bowling (or some aspects of him) we could probably identify in ourselves, assuming we are thinking, feeling individuals. Although written many decades ago, it resonates still as a fable of hope, despair, and ultimately acceptance of how life can disappoint.

This book is a gem, and for some obscure reason has never had the recognition nor the praise it clearly deserves.I think it is Orwell's best work and eclipses other of his more famed works (1984, animal farm etc). A sad, revealing and funny book - well worth the effort in procuring a copy.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming up for air- what air?, 30 July 2006
This review is from: Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
George Bowling,middle-aged, pot- bellied and unhappily married with two children, goes through a mid-life crisis which takes him back to Lower Binfield where he grew up. He discovers that the place had been modernised beyond recognition;there was no point in returning to his boyhood past and the futility of Coming Up For Air- when there isn't any air!

Although there is little to the story-line,Orwell compensates with a well-written novel with an ability to engage a readers interest through the clarity and wicked humour in his writing.
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Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell (Paperback - 25 Jan. 2001)
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