Customer Reviews


10 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography
For anyone wanting to read a straightforward biography of Orwell, well-written and searching, with a strong narrative drive, this is an excellent book for you. Not only is it extremely well-researched, but it explores Orwell's mind from his childhood through to his death. It explains a lot of things that were mysterious about him and includes a lot of new facts and...
Published on 19 Aug 2003 by Raymond Eyre

versus
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Speculative
Bowker's biography of George Orwell is a fascinating read with lots of detail, but like other reviewers, I found this biography to be speculative. Naturally, some speculation is inherent when piecing information together about a famous writer, and everyone has their own subjective opinion. However, I felt at times that certain suggestions were overstated (e.g., being...
Published 19 months ago by Rowan Taw


Most Helpful First | Newest First

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography, 19 Aug 2003
This review is from: George Orwell (Hardcover)
For anyone wanting to read a straightforward biography of Orwell, well-written and searching, with a strong narrative drive, this is an excellent book for you. Not only is it extremely well-researched, but it explores Orwell's mind from his childhood through to his death. It explains a lot of things that were mysterious about him and includes a lot of new facts and observations relating to the shadowy side of his life and to his writing.
I like especially the way Bowker writes about the novels and the poetry, but he gives equal weight to the essays, and situates them well in their political perspective. He is very good on his superstitious streak, his sadistic tendencies and the paranoia which resulted from his being hunted and spied on during the Spanish Civil War. His explanation of why Orwell made up his list of suspected Communists and his wish to have no biography written I found very persuasive.
This is the book to read if you've heard of Orwell and would like to know more. It's also a first rate introduction to his work. And for those familiar with Orwell and his work there is a lot here that is new revealing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spledid book, 8 Dec 2007
By 
Ronald Fraser (South Ayrshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
This is an excellent read by Gordon Bowker. He has carried out a terrific amount of research and has captured the many facets that make up George Orwell. He has done this with care and it whets the appetite of the reader for more of Orwell's work.

The book demonstrates that Orwell was a man of contrasts and perhaps had difficulty in understanding himself and lasting happiness always seemed to elude him. This has been handled sensitively by Gordon Bowker.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A search for Truth, 26 Sep 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: George Orwell (Hardcover)
This is an excellent biography. It is well-researched, fluently written and contains some penetrating analysis of Orwell and his work. It is honest and dispassionate without being bloodless; tells the truth, warts and all, about a complex and in many ways secretive personality, without obscuring his many virtues; makes astute and penetrating comments on Orwell's works which are woven neatly into the structure of the narrative. A first class work which is as gripping to read as a thriller. The author has been let down by his copy editor, however. There were some real howlers, particularly in the opening chapters. This fine writer deserves better than that.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography, 18 May 2013
By 
E. G. Mcqueen (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written biography, exceptionally detailed. It takes the reader through Orwell's entire life, from childhood, through major events and relationships, and clear sightedly assesses his literary legacy. Each literary work is explored in context, via a thorough examination of his personality, culminating in a thoroughly entertaining history.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental, 31 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: George Orwell (Kindle Edition)
This biography is painstakingly researched and wonderfully thorough. Bowker does not allow his own opinion to intrude overly on the narrative but sits back - the dispassionate and non judgemental observer. This is a relief as Orwell is a sufficiently challenging character that anything less than an objective approach would prove a test to the reader. At times B seems excessively revisionist or in search of a new "angle". The repeated allusion to O's possible bisexuality for example is not only unfounded but irrelevant. The book is very revelatory and expresses a clear and credible vie on O. Whether that view is accurate is unlikely given O's immense complexity, but it is a very engaging and well put together contribution to the discussion. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 7 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
Very good product and service. Good timing just what I wanted. Timely. Good packaging. Very good product and service. Great
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Speculative, 29 Nov 2012
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
Bowker's biography of George Orwell is a fascinating read with lots of detail, but like other reviewers, I found this biography to be speculative. Naturally, some speculation is inherent when piecing information together about a famous writer, and everyone has their own subjective opinion. However, I felt at times that certain suggestions were overstated (e.g., being secretive and sadistic), and that other interpretations were possible and perhaps more likely.

For example, it is mentioned that when Orwell was "down and out", he would tell people that drink had got him. This is used as evidence of his secretiveness, and his liking of playing roles. Yet, Bowker also repeatedly acknowledges the sociological Orwell; the man who was able to quickly recognise people's positions in social groups. I would argue that it is this latter point that is more like to explain the drinking comment, in that it would have been a pragmatic explanation for the Etonian to offer for his apparent downfall. This would be a familiar story to his fellow downtrodden companions, which would not require further prying (think of the drunk in "To Kill a Mockingbird"), and may have the potential to lead to acceptance and sympathy. If on the other hand he had been "honest" and said:

"Well, old chap, it's like this: All my Eton chums have gone off to Oxbridge and are busy writing from comfortable positions. However, I've decided to reject such a bourgeois life, and thought I'd join you, the poor, lower classes, in your predicament, before writing about you and becoming a famous author",

he would have alienated his company, and perhaps attracted a good kicking. Now, he may also have enjoyed this duplicity, but I find it strange that while Bowker commends Orwell's sociological discernment, he doesn't always seem to demonstrate it himself.

I also felt that the comparison between Orwell's novels and Milton's Paradise Lost/regained was a far stretch. An inordinate amount of novels involve gain and loss, or loss and gain, but that is not to say every author has been influenced by Milton, rather, they have been influenced by life (everyone experiences gains and losses). Bowker repeatedly implies that Orwell had been intentionally reversing Milton's loss/gain to gain/loss, but this makes no sense to me. Firstly, while things may get decidedly worse in Orwell's storylines, it is hardly the case that they start in paradise. There might be the touch of nostalgia ("Coming up for Air"), or hidden pleasure ("Nineteen Eighty-Four"), but it is far from Eden. Secondly, Paradise Lost starts with Adam and Eve enjoying Paradise (gain) and explains how they lose it, so there is no reversal. However, with the loss, the couple are presented with glimpses of the future (courtesy of Michael), which leaves them with hope. So they lose Paradise, but not Hope. Whereas, Orwell's novels end with loss of hope (e.g., the image of the boot being continually stamped on a face forever). And while Milton's "Paradise Regained" ends positively, it is positive for the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but Adam and Eve are no more of earth. So, the comparison is superficial at best, and certainly didn't need repeating as often as it was.

However, my biggest gripe with the biography comes from the very poor use of psychological terms. While I understand Bowker is a biographer and not a psychologist, I still expect him to at least have a rudimentary understanding of terms he chooses to use. Schizophrenia is characterized by disorganized thinking, which may include hallucinations (e.g., hearing voices), and in some cases involves paranoia. Schizophrenia is not, as implied by Bowker, split personality. By misusing the term, Bowker not only labels Stevie Smith's impression of Orwell incorrectly, but also reinforces the erroneous way in which people with this serious mental health condition are perceived. While this may be a common misunderstanding, I believe it shouldn't be compounded by someone undertaking the careful and intimate analysis involved in biography.

It for this latter reason that I could only give the biography three stars, despite it being packed full of interesting information that any Orwell enthusiast would do well to read (though so are many other Orwell biographies).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great, 8 Dec 2007
By 
D. A. Carroll - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
500 pages of almost pure speculation placed into a context and time line around the work published by Orwell. None of it is definitive and at times seems to be purely the authors own opinion of what Orwell might have been thinking but is essentially that, a guess.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, 3 Oct 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
If you want to quickly get a taste of who the man was, then in my view, this is not for you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needed an editor, 2 Nov 2011
This review is from: George Orwell (Paperback)
I am surprised that other reviewers have described this biography as well-written. Bowker's prose, although lively, cries out for an editor. Horrible sentences such as "In College Days he published a short story on spiritualism that reads like a sardonic reflection on the Yorke affair, suggesting that, like Runciman, it continued to haunt him" and "On one bank of the Thames stands Windsor with its great castle, the town where Wells once worked as a draper's assistant" are very distracting. There are commas here, there and everywhere. I recommend Michael Shelden's biography of Orwell.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

George Orwell
George Orwell by Gordon Bowker (Hardcover - 1 May 2003)
Used & New from: 3.32
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews