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on 28 August 2012
Orwell had six rules for good writing:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print
Never use a long word where a short one will do
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

These rules pretty much describe Orwell's own writing style, which is simple and straightforward, yet elegant and engaging. He was a man who lived a very full and somewhat eccentric life, giving up a career in the Burmese police force to wander around Britain as a Tramp and to live in poverty in Paris. He was very connected to working people and so understandably was drawn to the socialist side against Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9).

This is a remarkably detailed account of an ordinary foot soldier's life in wartime - comparable to Robert Graves' `Goodbye to All That' about his time in the trenches in WW1. Orwell doesn't have the big picture of how the war is going or what the strategy is but can see the hopeless organisation and pitiful logistics of the Socialists. He's cold, hungry, ill clothed and badly armed but it's remarkable how cheerful he and his comrades remain. I would guess that this is an almost universal account of the nonsense of war from a soldier's point of view.

In the second part of the book he goes on leave to Barcelona and gives an account of the complex political rivalry between the socialist factions. As an account of the home front this is less successful as the political infighting seems ridiculously petty and un-affecting compared to the soldier's life. Eventually however the group to which Orwell belongs (POUM) losses the political fight and becomes a banned organisation so that he has to flee Spain to avoid arrest.

In many ways this is bang up-to-date - I can well believe that anti-government groups in, say, the Arab spring are very much like Orwell's socialists - fervent for their cause, but badly equipped and divided politically. To that extent this is a very modern book that has some universal truths about revolution and political change and which is well worth reading.
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on 5 June 2015
I came to this book after reading For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Many reviewers of that book pointed in the direction of Homage to Catalonia as a better narrative on the Spanish Civil War. Whilst I wasn't exactly totally enamoured with the Hemingway account it was ultimately the more rewarding and engaging of the two books.

I found Homage to Catalonia to be a very dry account and the writing felt very basic and lacking the skill that Orwell clearly possesses. It was by its nature a quickly written account of his experiences at the time. These were real experiences in the trenches at the front line and then in Barcelona. Amazing that he should have thrown himself it such a dangerous position so far from home. The story telling is therefore honest and true if heavy handed. The book is better read as a student of history than as a novel for pleasure.

Like For Whom The Bell Tolls it is told from the midst of the action and this makes it difficult to understand the context and the bigger picture. I'm left hungry for more on the topic.
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on 26 March 2017
A very good book about George Orwell's experiences fighting against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
I read the book in an afternoon, couldn't put it down!
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on 7 October 2014
Decided to read this after reading the Victoria Hislop novel 'The Return', and realising how little I knew about the Spanish Civil war.
I think it gets a little over looked in history as it came just prior to World War 2, Orwell's account mostly high lights the deprivations suffered by the ordinary soldiers on all sides even down to extreme lack of weapons & ammunition.
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on 2 March 2013
Read this book to gather something of how strong commitment when confronted with confusion can lead to chaos. I began to understand something of the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. Knowing little about it before I read the book, I found it hard to keep track of the different factions and their allegiances. I recommend reading Appendix 1 while reading the main body rather than leaving it until the end - it contains some useful background detail.
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on 25 July 2016
Orwell's account of his time fighting in the Spanish civil war shows the futility of war and how those who would seem to be friends on the same side quickly descend into blame tactics and war amongst themselves for position. Wars can never be won if you are also warring with yourself.
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on 28 April 2017
Recently I was travelling around Barcelona and took this book with me, what a great companion to a Catalonian adventure. Orwell remains so relevant to this day, and despite the relative age of the book it remains an easy and joyful read.
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on 10 January 2016
Quite a tough read but decent he has better books
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on 4 April 2017
Gift received with enthusiasm.
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on 9 May 2013
As a "non-historian", I found this really fascinating. It is extremely repetitive however, and the tedious details (often reiterated at different sections) at times makes it quite turgid. Hard to get in to the minds of the protagonists - I guess it exposes how bizarre the whole affair really was. Perhaps even more so than other "wars". Hard to feel sympathy for anyone involved in this debacle, on any side.
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