Review: Animal Farm – George Orwell

12 - Animal Farm

Rating – 4*

I finally got around to reading Animal Farm and my primary feeling is “why did it take me so long?”. Animal Farm is actually my sisters favourite book, she read it during her GCSEs. She told me, at the age of 14, that I had to read this book. She’s 20 in a couple of months and I have only just got around to this!

This book is so simple but it conveys such an important message, it’s brilliant. It is presented as a fairy story, though it is more of an elongated fable, it has the simple language of a children’s book but depth of meaning that I’ve not experienced before. Exploring communist Russia through the eyes of animals, well, it was genius. But the moral of this book still exists today, it’s just as relevant to read now as it was when it was first published in 1945.

All of the animals on this farm had human counterparts. The pigs were the government (in the metaphor of Russia they were Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky etc.), the horses were the hard-working members of society who believed in the government, the dogs were (essentially) the KGB. The revolution becomes much less idyllic with the pigs ruling the roost; changing laws put out at the start to suit their pleasure, by the end of the book “All animals are equal” becomes “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

I think it is fair to say that this is the best novella I have ever read. At just 120 pages I was blown away. This covered so much ground and really made such a big societal event manageable. I can see why this book is on reading lists for pre-16 education. What Orwell achieved in this book is mindblowing. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s a book I would definitely love to reread, so I gave it 4* but I’m still teetering on whether or not to bump it to 5*. I wish I had read this before I read 1984!

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

1984This book blew my mind just a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot. I wish I’d read it sooner, I wish I had been able to read it at school and study it properly because I think I probably missed so much but on the other hand I don’t think I would have been mentally able to comprehend it all had I read it any sooner. It is just so complex that one – relatively casual – reading isn’t really enough. It’s by no means a new favourite but it’s a book I have huge respect for because it is just genius. I also just have to say that George Orwell is a fantastic writer and I’m ashamed I put this off as long as I did. Trying to make this review coherent is going to be a challenge in itself so I’m not even going to try and make a grand overview of everything!

Ultimately, the thing that was most powerful for me about this book was language. How in this world that Orwell has created, language as we know it is being shrunk down to nothing. That one word is being used with prefixes to cover all multitude of things and how that’s basically creating a world that cannot express itself so everyone can only think in one way. It’s just terrifying to think about it, that sort of censorship. Running parallel to that is our freedom to think. It is something we take for granted and it is a key element of this book, just the idea of policing thoughts is boggling. That any threat to the government – real or imagined – will be silenced, that’s pretty scary!

The world that was created was in itself interesting to read about. I can’t quite put it in to words what it was about it but it was just so well developed. The politics was actually quite interesting to read about, which is actually the bit I was dreading!

It’s also one of those books wherein you never quite know where it’s going. You never know who is trustworthy and who isn’t – there were a couple of twists that surprised me and I’m quite good at calling things! The ending is just devastating in all the ways I wasn’t expecting. There just isn’t words for that kind of ending.

Now more than ever it’s an appropriate book, and an important book, to read. With the increase in technology and social networking, Big Brother is always watching in many ways, our actions have paper trails and yes… I think this book is a cautionary tale in some respects, and one that wasn’t really listened to when it was first published. It’s timeless, it represents so many elements of the world we live in now that it’s hard not to be affected by the story as a whole.

This, as I said, isn’t going to be a favourite book but I understand its importance. I understand why people love this book. I couldn’t have comprehended it when I was 16, or even 18, but I appreciate it now and I think I will reread one day and appreciate it a little bit more still. I’ll happily give this 4/5 because it really got me thinking.