Most helpful positive review
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Good Stuff - Definitely worth reading.
on 10 February 2010
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 feeling like you have learnt more about that period in history than from all other reading, general knowledge and long-forgotten lessons put together.
Coming Up For Air isn't about telling a story, or even about creating a character (which it does spectacularly well), it's a state-of-the-nation piece that draws you right in - letting you know with exquisite detail and real atmosphere what life was like in home counties England from the turn of the century, through the Great War and it's aftermath, up to the looming inevitability of the horrors of WW2. Seeing life through the eyes George Bowling - a shopkeeper's son turned soldier turned unhappily married insurance salesman living in the outer suburbs - provides a generally original viewpoint on the times. History is very rarely told from the perspective of the lower-middle class, and it makes for an interesting angle.
Something else which struck me is the accuracy of foresight displayed by Orwell when it comes to predictions about the second world war. I had to constantly check the publication date to confirm that it was indeed written in 1939. The way he describes many of the events yet to come is incredibly prescient - more so, maybe, than in 1984, although you can see some of those ideas forming here. You can also see why, with the gentle pace of the story, and a central character that won't be sympathetic to all readers, CUFA is not top of most people's list of Orwell's most famous classics. It is, however, a gem - the winning way he has of dealing with the greatest of themes with the lightest of linguistic touches makes for a really absorbing read.