Top positive review
classic essays on the industrial north
25 November 2017
This is a vivid and affecting account of the bleak lives of the working class in the industrial north of England. The first half is a set of essays, the first one is on life in a tripe shop come boarding house and is an object lesson in how to write, as is the superb account of working in a coal mine.
By modern standards the structure is probably rather shambolic, and it is stronger on personal experience than evidence, but as a writer, Orwell has the ability to just vanish and let the lives of those he is describing come fully alive before you.
The second half was not originally published, and it is easy to see why. It is part debate, part rant, about his desire for the rise of socialism. He takes swipes at all and sundry, from nouveau Catholics, to sandal wearing lefties and Quakers in their garden cities. He debates the attractiveness of the English physique and whether the working class smell. Despite this, he comes across as sincere, well intentioned, and uncannily astute on a great many things.
After this, Orwell headed off to fight in the Spanish civil war, and he is surely one of the most impressive Britons of the twentieth century.