I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I bought this book. The first part of the book includes the "Road to Wigan Pier", which is excellent. A very graphic description of the poverty endured by people in the north of England during the 1930s. The second half looks at the English national character, and is equally description. Having read Paxman's "The English", I found that Orwell's observations are much more enlightening and true. The attributes may have been observed 70 years ago, but many are still accurate today.
This excellent collection of essays alongside the brilliant Road To Wigan Pier shows some of Orwell's more journalistic work at its finest. Although he was the author of some brilliant fiction, Orwell made a name for himself before the war writing some excellent surveys of poverty and many other issues. The Road To Wigan Pier makes up the bulk of this work. It describes poverty in the northern industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and in it Orwell gives an excellent story of the kinds of conditions the working classes were living in at that time. Perhaps the best part of this book is the description of the kinds of housing conditions these people had to endure, such as back-to-back houses, shared outdoor lavatories and the general dilapidation of the housing stock. All the writing in this work is a brutal condemantion of poverty and unemployment, and goes well with some of Orwell's other work, and betrays the fact that all was not well in interwar England.
I first read this book 40 years ago and was struck by the vivid reporting of the world of work (and its obverse, unemployment). That still blazes through, but now I find that the political agenda put forward by Blair, which has pssed its 75th birthday, is completely relevant and needs to be addressed by politicians and political theorists today.