Well, I thought a book I read earlier this year about hedges was going to be my most quirky read of the year. That was until I came across Orwell's Nose by John Sutherland. I'd never imagined contemplating Orwell's life and works through the medium of smell!
The idea for the book came about as Sutherland was revisiting Orwell's works and lost his own sense of smell. It's certainly an intriguing perspective from which to examine some of the best literature ever written and it's an interesting journey for the reader. I found some of the statements more conjectural than factual. Orwell's coprophagia, for example. But Mr Sutherland constructs some compelling comparisons and certainly provides insight into Eric Blair's French /English background, literary friendships, domestic life and much more. I've certainly never considered the extent to which smells and odours shape much of the narrative in Orwell's work or how some other great books have little or no reference to smell.
The book hops backwards and forwards but it's jam packed with little titbits that held my interest from start to finish. More importantly, it's a book that lingers and one which will make me look again at a number of great books from an entirely different perspective. For most serious readers, I think they'll find this book enlightening and a delight and any flights of fancy by the author are easily forgiven. On the quirky scale, it's going to be difficult to beat, bug I really enjoyed it. Thank you Mr Sutherland for a joyous insight.
Tremendous stuff. I loved this book. I admit that it does help if you know a bit about Orwell before you dip in but once in the book it is a wonderful pot pourri of suggestions,odd ideas,brilliant digressions and plain interesting writing. I have read all the standard biographies but this one stand out for its sheer fun whilst maintaining a real respect for a remarkable, awkward and masochistic subject. I love Sutherland's take on a range of ideas and this book is far more clever and engrossing than just a tale of Orwell's fabled problem with scent! Highly recommended!