100 Book Project: 1984


Book Title: 1984

Author: George Orwell

Number in #100bookproject: 9

Level of Recommendation: Extremely High

Favourite Quote: “But if the object was not to stay alive, but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings; for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you have done or said or thought: but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.”

Tied with –

“ ‘At the time when it happens,’ she had said ‘You do mean it.’ He had meant it. He had not merely said it, he had wished it. He had wished that she and not he should be delivered over to the –

Something changed in the music that trickled from the telescreen. A cracked and jeering note, a yellow note came into it. And then – perhaps it was not happening, perhaps it was only a memory taking on the semblance of a sound – a voice was singing
                                                                                              ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree
                                                                                                 I sold you and you sold me.’”
Review: In short 1984 is one of the best, if not the best, dystopian novel you will ever read. George Orwell was a writer who thrived on creating essays, and novels that focused on political criticism and exposing the injustices of his day. 1984 is the pinnacle of Orwell’s fears, beliefs and political agenda. 1984 is so influential and was so ahead of its time (it was originally published in 1949) that certain modern day terms like Big Brother, thoughtcrime, telescreen, Newspeak and Orwellian (referring to official deception, secret surveillance and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state) spawned from it.

1984 is set in a dystopian future where multiple wars have divided the world into three superpowers, one of them being Oceania, which is the combination of countries formerly known as Great Britain and The United States. Winston, the main character of the tale, lives in London, which is the capital of Air Strip One (a.k.a former Great Britain). 1984 is told primarily through Winston’s perspective – apart from a few pages that a presented in the form of another book that Winston is reading. Therefore, everything we know about the party and Big Brother is given to us by Winston. There are so many great twists and turns in 1984 that I don’t want to give away any of the plot (if you haven’t ready it already).

So here is a short summary – Winston works for the party in the Ministry of Truth, his job is to alter books and newspapers so they reflect the Party’s version of history. He is a middle-aged man with ailing health who secretly hates the Party. This, of course, is dangerous because the Thought Police are constantly seeking out those disloyal to the party. Yet Winston cannot help his growing disdain for his situation and through a series of events he begins to become more and more rebellious; he begins to write in a diary, starts an affair with a young woman named Julia, and eventually attempts to join a resistance against the party.

For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read it for yourself. But to continue the review, in my opinion there are two things that make 1984 a masterpiece. One – Orwell’s ability to predict a future that in many ways is coming true and his skill in presenting the reader with a world that you not only absolutely believe in, but at the same time manages to eerily mirror the terrors of our own.
In 1949 computers were barely a concept yet Orwell managed to see a world where computers and screens (what he called telescreens) were such an integral part of everyday life that they were used to monitor and control citizens. Of course when the actual year 1984 rolled around Orwell’s vision was still a little far off, but if we compare it to now, when everyone has multiple screens in their homes and mini screens in the form of cell phones constantly on their bodies we see the truth in Orwell’s predictions.



Additionally, in 1984 these telescreens are used to spy on citizens of Oceania and motivate them to be what the government wants them to be (for example in 1984 a women appears on the screen every morning to conduct an exercise class and if citizens didn’t participate the camera in those telescreens would report that to the Thought Police, who would in turn see that as disloyalty.) Does a government agency spying on us through technology in our homes sound at all familiar to our modern world? Patriot Act anyone? Not to mention our constant saturation of media outlets and social media outlets telling us what we need to look like, sound like and act like in order to be acceptable to society.

Somehow seventy years ago Orwell saw elements of this in our future and more than that saw the danger in it. And as the popular saying goes ‘Big Brother is always watching’. Orwell made that theology possible, before that technology to make Big Brother a reality was even remotely close to being created.

Lastly, in regards to point number one it has to be said that there is a section of 1984 where Winston is reading a book that explains the origins of the party and the ‘necessity’ of it. I won’t go into details, but the amount of political intellect that Orwell crams into maybe ten or twenty pages is stunning. And this political examination not only fits into the world of 1984 it easily fits into Orwell’s world of the 1940’s and our modern day world.

That to me is an insane genius, but maybe that’s just me.

Now for Two – Orwell’s mastery of pace and language is incredible. Orwell’s vivid descriptions move with the tone and progression of the characters. For example in the beginning Winston’s world is very cold, grey and sterile yet as he begins to develop a sense of who he is and a desire to rebel he begins to see beauty, colors, sounds and sensations that are vivid and succulent.

Orwell’s subtle change in language to signify character development is brilliant as well. For example, about two-thirds into the story (after Winston has been sleeping with Julia for a while and has made moves to move towards becoming a rebel agent) he uses the word ‘gelatinous’ to describe how he feels in the morning and then goes on to think about why he chose that word. In the context of Winston’s world, that is a monumental thought – the kind of the thought that could get him caught by the Thought Police. But you see that’s the beauty of Orwell choosing to use that word. By placing such a lavish word in Winston’s vocabulary, he is showing how much Winston has grown and how ready he is to take on the party, simply by thinking a certain word.

In a similar fashion after some very intense stuff goes down – stuff that makes Winston and Julia’s relationship impossible to regain – Winston sees Julia. They talk and he thinks about wanting her, but throughout their interaction Winston refers to her only as ‘she.’ This is a subtle craft technique, but by choosing to refer to Julia as ‘she’ Orwell is showing that Winston has evolved again and a woman he once so desperately loved is now no more than a thing to him.
I could go on and on about all things I love about 1984 including how Orwell gives the reader an ending that they don’t want but is so poignant and in turn serves as a warning for not only the future but the fragility of the human soul.

But – I won’t do that. Instead I will leave you with this, if you’ve been reading/watching dystopian literature/movies and thinking well these are predictable, have the same characters and same plot, etc. – then 1984 is for you.

If you have any interest in political criticism and satire – 1984 is for you.

If you have any interest in works about the future that lean towards science fiction – 1984 is for you.

If you want to be challenged, and made to think about the state of the world like never before – 1984 is for you.

If you want to be riveted and thoroughly engrossed in a book – 1984 is for you.

If you can read – 1984 is for you.


Next Up: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

100 Book Project: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe


Book Title: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 

Author: C.S. Lewis

Number in #100bookproject:

Level of Recommendation: High

Favourite Quote: “And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning – either a terrifying one, which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again.” 

Review:  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a children’s classic and one of those beloved novels that has been adapted for radio, TV and movies. It’s also a story I’ve loved as a child and after completing the book today I can earnestly say The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe deserves, without a shadow of a doubt, my love and all its fame.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a story told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator (who takes on the role of the storyteller), who is effectively speaking to an audience of children. I won’t take time to go into the plot of the story in this review because I feel as though most would know the plot from the movies, etc., but also I desperately want you to read the book :). Now back to the technical review. Throughout the book, Lewis interjects different thoughts and opinions into the narrative.

The most beautiful example of this is this scene after Aslan’s sacrifice; “I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.”

This is clear authorial intrusion, as the author is directly addressing the reader, yet somehow Lewis made this technique work as he expertly sprinkles it throughout the narrative. The authorial intrusions appear when there is a moment of great emotional significance and it’s as though Lewis is taking a break from the overall story to communicate the emotional impact we, as readers, are supposed to feel.

Lewis also uses this technique a few times to make sense some of his descriptive language; “ ‘Wherever is this?’ said Peter’ voice, sounding tired and pale in the darkness (I hope you know what I mean by a voice sounding pale).”

This technique gives the reader the sense of being a child, and this idyllic image is created. An image of being a child, sat on the floor listening to Lewis as he sits in on a rocking chair in the corner reading this story out of a big leather-bound book, and taking the time to explain things to you as he goes. It’s not at all condescending or belittling. Instead, it’s charming and somehow gives the reader a sense of security and intimate connection as the story progresses.

Aside from this technique Lewis was in every sense of the word, a true storyteller. His characters are vivid, emotionally complicated and loveable/hateable. His imagery as he creates the world of Narnia is stunning, and his overall plot is impactful and unique. It is perhaps, his ability to create such a fantastical story while maintaining a quick pace that makes The Lion, The Watch and The Wardrobe so incredible. In well under 200 pages Lewis created an entire world, a slew of characters with complicated backstories, a true sense of English temperament and family duty, a supernatural history to the world of Narnia, and emotional resonance that makes the reader not only breeze through the story, but eagerly anticipated the next installment.

I cannot stress enough how important The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is to read, especially for children (as it is the kind of easy but magnificent read that will make a reader for life) and it is to my regret that it took me this long to read the original (and iconic) version of the story I’ve loved since childhood.


Next Up: 1984 by George Orwell



100 Book Project – A Tree Grows in Brookyln


Book Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Author: Betty Smith

Number in #100bookproject: 7

Level of Recommendation:  High

Favourite Quote: “Mother, I know there are no ghosts or fairies. I would be teaching the child foolish lies.”

Mary spoke sharply, “You do not know whether there are ghosts on earth or angels in heaven.”

“I know there is no Santa Claus.”

“Yet you must teach the child what these things are so.”

“Why? When I, myself, do not believe?”

“Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in the child can reach back and live in her imagination.” – pg 84

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a 400 page plus novel focuses on the life of Francie Nolan, a first generation America girl growing up in the dynamic world of 1900s Brooklyn. The novel is written in a semi-omniscient point of view, with a focus on Francie’s point of view.  Infact the novel is so clearly about Francie’s view of things and her development from a girl to a young woman that it almost reads like a memoir.

However, it’s within the authors choice to dip into other major characters thoughts that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn becomes more than just Francie’s story. It is instead the story of how one family, with all its different branches, combined to influence, frustrate, inspire and grow a young woman.

The story takes place from before Francie’s birth, with her grandparents and parents immigration into America and her parents early marriage, to just before Francie goes off to college in Michigan at age 17. Indeed, it is within this ending that the point of the book is revealed, it is Francie’s acceptance of the loss of childhood and the start of adulthood. Many of the events in Francie’s life mirror that of the authors, Betty Smith’s, life and this adds to the memoir-esque feel of the book.

The strengths of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn are the amount of detail in every single event of Francie’s early life (I would go so far to say as it is the most intricate account of a childhood I’ve ever read) , the enormous amount of reality and grime Smith brings to each character, especially Katie (Francie’s mother), and the way each seemingly small event is brought back around to contribute to a defining characteristic of Francie as a young woman.

The only downfall of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the density of the book. It is close to 500 pages and some of the included details seem heavy handed and unnecessary. And since it is a novel without much action or conflict it can be, at times, a read that requires a dedicated reader.

Indeed, nothing particularly spectacular happens in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; there are no intense conflicts, no great changes within Francie’s world of Brooklyn, no violence, no wars, no horrific traumas and no torrid love affairs, yet the beauty of this book is that Smith turns the everyday world of the Nolans, with all its poverty, dirt , family bonding, laughter and struggle into some strangely magical. In essence, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a understated celebration of family, home and growing up and that in itself makes it a worthwhile read.


Want to read along with the #100bookproject? The next book up is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis