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Janet

Burmese Days by George Orwell

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Burmese Days by George Orwell

 

The ‘blurb’

Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell's first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, 'after all, natives were natives - interesting, no doubt, but finally ... an inferior people'.

 

When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory's life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the 'lie' of colonial life.

 

The novel opens with a dishonest official, U Po Kyin plotting against a local man, Dr Veraswami who he dislikes immensely. By spreading lies about the doctor, suggesting that Veraswami is anti-British Kyin hopes to discredit him. Veraswami’s protection comes in the form of timber merchant Flory with whom he has a close friendship.

 

Living in an expat community, Flory finds the other Europeans irritating and dull. He immerses himself into Burmese life, taking on a native mistress, but one day a young European woman called Elizabeth comes to stay with her aunt and uncle and Flory takes an interest in her. Worried about being saddled with her, Elizabeth’s Aunt and Uncle encourage the relationship until they learn of the imminent arrival of military police lieutenant named Verrall who they believe to be a better match. Flory must then fight to keep his relationship with Elizabeth whilst also trying to restore the reputation of his doctor friend but as Kyin’s plot reaches its climax, this is going to prove harder than Flory thought.

 

This was Orwell’s first novel – and ironically the last of his full-length works that I have read!

 

Published in 1934, it is based on Orwell’s life as a policeman in Burma. When first published it caused something of a stir due to its criticism of British colonial life which Orwell disliked. Some of it is rather dated (naturally) and one of the characters in particular has more of a touch of ‘Alf Garnett’ about him which the modern reader might find hard to swallow, but this character would have been fairly typical of some colonials at the time. Orwell’s descriptive, easy writing more than makes up for this though and the writing conjures up a very vivid image of the landscape.

 

It is not my favourite of Orwell’s books (for non-fiction that would be the excellent Down and Out in Paris and London and for fiction, A Clergyman’s Daughter) but I did enjoy it. I do, however, tend to prefer his novels about poverty over the ones about politics. I am sorry to have reached the end of Orwell’s full-length books – on to the essays for me now!

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It is not my favourite of Orwell’s books (for non-fiction that would be the excellent Down and Out in Paris and London and for fiction, A Clergyman’s Daughter) but I did enjoy it. I do, however, tend to prefer his novels about poverty over the ones about politics. I am sorry to have reached the end of Orwell’s full-length books – on to the essays for me now!

 

Hi Janet, hope you'll forgive me for rewarming an older topic. Down and Out in Paris and London great read! Like you, I've read most if not all of his novels at this point (cant decide if my fave Orwell fiction is Coming up for Air or Keep the Aspidistra Flying).

 

Assuming here you've had the time to read them, did you enjoy his essays? Shooting an Elephant comes to mind... good stuff.

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Hi Buddy.  :)   I have Shooting an Elephant and Inside the Whale and Other Essays but I haven't started them yet.

 

I looked at this in W H Smiths, but the print is tiny so I don't think I'd get on with it!  I'd like to read his Diaries and Letters books too. 

 

So many books, so little time...!

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KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING is my favourite Orwell book. Last year I was attending a choral concert at a church near me when a friend pointed out his grave in the churchyard, and I never knew!he was a great author, and because so much read [or had to be  read in schools] of his books, this put a lot of young people  off reading his books for pleasure.Certainly there will be a lot in them that young people do not recognise[but then that applies to any historical or SF book too!]

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I`ve got the Penguin collected novels omnibus and picked it up today to read the first page of Burmese Days. I should really take this thread bump as a sign to get stuck into his work. :smile:

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I've got Animal Farm on the TBR, and 1984 on my wishlist.

 

PS. Shouldn't this be in the Classics section of the forum, or are his books not considered classics? I have Animal Farm shelved with my classics :blush:.

Edited by Athena

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Well Janet, I never thought to take a photo of the gravestone [it was a bit dark anyway.]  Tim Curry and Helena Bonham Carter live opposite the same church [not that I would bother taking a photo of them!] :giggle2: 

Yes, Athena, I think these books are classics too , but what exactly is the literary meaning of 'classics'? I have never been quite sure.

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Yes, Athena, I think these books are classics too , but what exactly is the literary meaning of 'classics'? I have never been quite sure.

x

I wouldn't know it exactly, either. I've always found it odd that some books are considered literature; a classic or a modern classic, whereas other books are not. In some cases I can see that there's perhaps not much 'literary value' but in other cases? I feel usually classics are contemporary fiction (for that time) or historical fiction. There don't seem to be many that are for example fantasy or science-fiction (The Time Machine being one of the few exceptions that I can think of). I don't know though, I'm sure there is a literary answer to it, though.

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