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on 25 March 2015
It's an interesting snap shot into the pre-World War II era. Orwell has a pithy and compelling writing style. The book arrived on time and in perfect condition.
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on 27 August 2015
Classic fiction, witty, dark humoured, the central character and his miserable attempt to revisit his youth will strike a chord with many readers, Orwell at his best.
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on 4 September 2015
Excellent
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on 3 February 2016
Item as described - thanks
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on 7 February 2013
What can you say about this book? I lost my previous copy so I bought another because I liked it.
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on 6 November 2015
Top tale from Eric
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on 14 February 2013
A real discovery. I like it immensely. The great contrast with '1984' is so remarkable, that I can't but recommend it to my friends.
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on 12 August 2010
If you only read the apocalyptic misery of 1984 or the gut-wrenching descriptions of extreme squalor in Down and Out in Paris and London and A Clergyman's Daughter, you would probably have little hesitation in describing George Orwell as a cheerless writer. He certainly has an impressive faculty for depicting human suffering in graphic detail but, from the evidence of this book, that is clearly not all that he does.

There is more, much more, to Orwell than gloom. In Coming up for Air we are treated to sunny passages of a happier, funnier Orwell. This book is truly sublime.

The chief protagonist, George Bowling, is a fat, middle-aged bloke who is trapped in a life he loathes with a nagging wife from whom he cannot escape. He longs for the joys of his country childhood when he enjoyed simple pleasures like walking through beautiful English fields and woods and indulged in the thing that gave him more pleasure than any other: fishing. All the while he is worried that everything he holds sacred is about to be destroyed forever by yet another pointless war not long since he has survived active service in World War I.

The powers of description displayed by Orwell in painting vivid pictures of the landscape of Bowling's childhood are truly breathtaking. In these one can see that Orwell is being autobiographical.

Writing in the first person, Orwell brings out emotions in Bowling which all of us are sometimes guilty of possessing. Who can truthfully say that they have never felt like Bowling and wanted to escape the stifling drudgery of modern living, however briefly?

If you haven't already done so, do yourself a favour and read a copy of this charming novel. Like its title, reading it feels like coming up for air.
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on 25 March 2010
I am not a purist literary critic by any means and struggled to detect all the hints of 1984 and Animal Farm that others have spotted, but I prefer to look at this novel on its own as a wonderfully evocative snapshot of a life lived in two chronologically juxtaposed but quite distinct English eras. It reminded me of Laurie Lee's brilliant descriptions of life in rural England around the same time and his action in the Spanish Civil War. As has been pointed out, this is perhaps all the more remarkable for the fact that it is written like a very convincing autobiographical account about a person and situation that would have otherwise been quite unremarkable. There is no great story on offer here, no wonderfully empathetic characters, no revelations, so it is very impressive that we are held merely by the incredible, yet simple descriptions of life and are totally convinced by them.

Obviously Orwell wrote this for a comtemporary audience, not one I am sure that is reading the book 70 years on, and yet the obvious parallels with the feelings many people have at any time in the last two centuries that things are changing too quickly and not always for the best are extraordinary and resonant. I am not the least bit surprised therefore that the 17 year old reviewer did not get the same satisfaction reading this book by his favourite author, I can only encourage him to re-visit the book in twenty or thirty years time as a friend of mine has just done, as I am sure his appreciation will grow enormously as he becomes more empathetic with the views of a middle-aged man mourning the passage of time.

Yet I didn't care for everything and I am confused by my feelings about George Bowling. On the one hand I am appalled by his misongyny, his lack of emotional connection to his parents' death, the complete absence in turn of any apparent feelings for his own children, who are barely mentioned, and his complacency with his rather repellant figure and dental health; on the other hand, had he been more likeable the book would have been in danger of being a sickeningly sweet rose-tinted spectacles piece of nostalgia. So, I suppose on balance I preferred that George's character kept challenging me and stopped me from merely sinking into a chocolate box England that never existed. George's imprefections serve an important role in keeping the whole thing real. In case you haven't gathered, I was mesmereised by this simple tale. Brilliant, although I could probably have done with a little less fishing!
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on 1 June 2013
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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