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Keep the Aspidistra Flying
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Keep the Aspidistra Flying

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  7,292 ratings  ·  441 reviews
London, 1936. Gordon Comstock has declared war on the money god; and Gordon is losing the war. Nearly 30 and "rather moth-eaten already," a poet whose one small book of verse has fallen "flatter than any pancake," Gordon has given up a "good" job and gone to work in a bookshop at half his former salary. Always broke, but too proud to accept charity, he rarely sees his few ...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published 1973 by Secker & Warburg (first published April 20th 1936)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Patricia
Dear George Orwell,

It's not you, it's me. It had to happen, really, this bit of faultering in the crush I've had on you. Sure, I've known you for years, but as you know, I've been completely smitten with you since last summer when I read your first published novel, Down and Out in Paris and London. I grew more smitten while reading An Age Like This, 1920- 1940, your early correspondance, reviews, and essays, and I remained so while reading your 2nd published novel, Burmese Days. But now the new
...more
MJ Nicholls
The reader’s response to Gordon Comstock’s behaviour will depend upon whether the reader has ever tried to live a “self-sufficient” life free from bourgeois respectability, or seriously pursued an artistic vocation with stubborn single-mindedness. Orwell’s novel is pretty one-track plot-wise—what happens when a person renounces money and its interminable grip?—but Comstock’s obsessive pursuit is a societal conundrum of universal proportions and makes for a frustrating and bone-deep trip to the d ...more
Petra X
Essentially this is every art students' dilemma, or at least it was back in my day, to sell out and deal with the Man or be true to our art and starve in an attic. Whether to find one's place within the system or try to forge a unique life outside of it. One thing we had in common was pot plants. An aspidistra in Orwell's case, another kind of 'pot' plant in mine.

As the story works itself out Gordon discovers two more things, things we had in common - we were really rather average poets and arti
...more
Barry Pierce (*ON HIATUS*)
I buddy read this book with my bestie, Ariel Bissett. We spent more time on Voxer than actually reading this novel most nights but in our defense we spent most of that time gushing about Orwell.

I think this is my favorite Orwell. I knew that from the very first chapter and oh what a chapter that is. I think it may be one of the best opening chapters to a novel that I've ever read, in fact, it's one of the best chapters that I've ever read.

This novel tells us the story of Gordon Comstock, a man
...more
Mark
If you have seen the updates you may already realize that I was not overly-keen on Gordon Comstock. Nevertheless the liking or disliking of the hero or heroine of a novel evidently does not in itself negate the quality of the writing and it is certainly true that this novel is a really powerful description of the blanching effect of poverty on the colour of life, of the crippling struggle that the poor underwent between the wars and the pitiful descriptions of scrimping and saving and the sinkin ...more
Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic)
Girl problems, money problems, houseplant problems. Things are not going Gordon’s way. Money has become Gordon Comstock’s all-consuming idée fixe (followed closely by aspidistras). Gordon, who comes from “one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens,” refuses to be a slave to the “money-god.” He gives up a relatively well paying but soulless job at an advertising agency, a job that furthers the evils of the capitalism that he deplores ...more
Ariel
Oh, Orwell, thank you.

It's no secret that Animal Farm is one of my favourite books. Not only because it is a genius piece of the literary canon, but also because it the book that helped me crash down the wall between seeing classics as enemy and seeing their immense merit. It's been a long while since I read Animal Farm, (it was back in 2011), and while I enjoyed 1984 and some of Orwell's essays, I admit to not knowing if he'd be able to blow me away as strongly as he did with Animal Farm.

I sta
...more
Kim

According to Gordon Bowker, this is one of the novels Orwell wanted his literary executor to suppress after his death. That’s a clear indication of how Orwell felt about the novel and it’s fair to say that it’s not his strongest work. However, it still has a lot going for it, in particular black humour, sharp satire and a window into Orwell’s own life.

Having recently read Bowker’s biography of Orwell, I particularly appreciated the autobiographical elements of the novel, which otherwise would h
...more
Tosh
Well first of all, Orwell is a fantastic prose writer. He can really make your feet feel tired by his descriptions of walking long distance in London, and the way he describes food, drinking, and the loose change in your pocket is right on the mark. What made me tired is the main character's total obsession about money. Not having money, the making of money, etc. I hated that and that is one of the main themes of this book. But then again I wanted to shoot the main character in the head and get ...more
Christy
I have not sympathized with a protagonist quite so much in a good while.

Gordon Comstock is turning thirty, has no money, works in a bookshop, is a failing poet, and refuses to take a "good" job because of his socialist ideals and his war against the money-god, and it's chief symbol: the aspidistra that sits in the window of every British middle-class home. Kind of like a less talk-the-talk Frank Wheeler.

The hideous grimness of Gordon's soul-destroying poverty, the way he sinks into inevitable d
...more
Liz
This is why I would dig Orwell up and have him at a dinner party if I could. The man just knows how to write and not just write randomness for the sake of writing or selling a book. He just gets right down to the fundamentals of human existence (mainly suffering). This is one of his few books that actually ends on a high note....if conforming the the norm of society is a high note.

I have to admit that by the middle of the book, I did want to punch Gordon in his testicles for being a douche to ev
...more
Ian Wood
Sep 20, 2007 Ian Wood rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Faith, hope and criticism.

My favourite novel of all time chronicles Gordon Comstock’s war against money and British society. That Gordon chose to live outside the system and stay true to his art tempers the optimism of most follow your dreams type aspirational story with Gordon sinking further and further into poverty much to the shame of his family. It was always my intention to buy an aspidistra and display it in the bay window on getting married in homage to this book. As it happened my wife
...more
Martine
Mar 18, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: budding writers and closet socialists
I haven't yet read Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, a supposedly excellent autobiographical account of a middle-class man's descent into abject poverty, but I would imagine that some of the experiences Orwell describes in that book must have served him equally well in writing Keep the Aspidistra Flying, which must rank among the bleakest novels about self-induced poverty ever written in the English language.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying centres on Gordon Comstock, a talented twenty-nine-
...more
Capsguy
Three stars for me is pretty low, and it`s disappointing that I am giving it to an author like Orwell. Generally I love his works, they are so diverse, and yet always serious even in their more comical aspects.

One thing that has been done to death for me, is the struggling artist/author. I have read so many books with this as the main premise that I no longer care, I just do not. Perhaps if this wasn`t regurgitated so much and my exposure to it was minimal, then perhaps I could have dove deeper
...more
Tiziana
Objectively speaking, I am not sure that this is really a five-star book. But it certainly has affected me like one, hence my 'grade'. I have read it compulsively because despite being for many aspects so far away in time and setting (the book solidly mirrors and describes the social context of the Thirties in England), to me it felt so 'true', that it was almost too real.
The thing is that the book deals with things that have started to trouble me personally now that I am settling in, that I hav
...more
Andrew Walter
Money, always money!

When I showed my girlfriend the blurb on the back of this book she exclaimed "Oh, Orwell wrote a book about you!" Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say my existence is quite as grimly frustrated as that of Mr Comstock, I have to admit there were (are) certain parallels- I was working a part-time job, struggling for money with the vague hope I would turn the extra free time into productive "studio time". In reality, my inner city existence with its high rent and living costs f
...more
Lex Javier
Finishing the book within a day, I have a feeling that I just experienced something profoundly beautiful. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is the story of a very likable anti-hero and a very outstanding heroine. That story between the two characters is almost too sacred to give out in a book review. You have to read it yourself.

Yet there is still something to talk about: the author's message. You can't read and put down Orwell's novels without rearranging a few of your beliefs.

Only Orwell can speechif
...more
Ethan
Orwell's catalogue is done a great disservice by the public school system that offers Animal Farm and 1984 as fictional evidence of the poverty of Soviet Communism. This ignores two important qualities in their author: he was a committed British Socialist, and he was a prolific novelist.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel of characters first and a social critique second. Orwell gives his poet-unhero a confessional inner dialogue that makes his 1984 counterpart feel like a campaign poster. The
...more
matt

I really loved this book.

You know how when the writer decides to put you through a fairly unsympathetic character and you find that he shares some of your own traits and such....only to be kind of depressed and oddly fascinated by the experience?

This is one of the unknown Orwell books, and for that reason it should be read by everyone who's gotten into the bigger hits and really gotten into them.

The whole point is that it's not being 'artistic' to decide to mope around and hate everything. It's
...more
Rowena
Mar 10, 2012 Rowena rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Probably no one
Wow, what a tiresome book! The reason I even gave it three stars is because it's an Orwell book and, as such, he doesn't disappoint us with his wit, satire and irony. However, the story itself was lacking.Orwell must have been in a very misanthropic mood when he wrote this.

The main character, Gordon, is so depressing and unlikeable; he ties everything to money (for example, it took him an hour to shave one morning because he didn't have enough money). I just got so sick and tired of hearing abo
...more
Markus Molina
I felt I needed to pick up another George Orwell book when I was thinking about it and realized just how perfect in my mind Animal Farm and 1984 were. It's been a few years since I read either, but I was itching to read 1984 again.... in the end decided I should read something new instead though. What a great choice.


George Orwell has crafted the most realistic struggling artist character of all time, in my mind, in Gordon Comstock, the poet. Gordon has potential, talent, intelligence and good pe
...more
Drew
I still think Orwell is one of my favorite authors. I picked this book up on the shelf here at the Belmont Library because I was still waiting for Kerouac to come through inter-library loan.

The book was depressing to me because the main character (Gordon Comstock) is such a frustrating individual. And at times I could see myself in his actions. He declares his war on money from a young age and is so driven by this decision that he hurts himself and those closest to him. What he doesn't realize,
...more
Reesies
Another of my very favourite books ever- and probably the only book I ever read in middle or high school that I enjoyed. We read it as a counterpoint to Virginia Woolf's essay 'A Room of One's Own' which made for interesting discussions. Like much of Orwell's work, the focus is on poverty and artistic individualism, and there's a strong thread of biting satire relating to the so-called parlor socialism, the advertising field, and middle class values. A lot of the commentary holds up today, and t ...more
Steve mitchell
Mr Orwell is taking on the old English caste system.

The main protagonist, Gordon Comstock, is a competent enough fellow, some would say he has talent and possibilities, except he decides to wage war on money, a recurring theme throughout the book.

So instead of staying at a good job and getting decent friends and doing the sort of things most folks do, like going on holiday with friends, getting a decent place, having a great gal and eventually marrying and having children, Gordon quits his good
...more
Rauf
Mar 14, 2008 Rauf rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: starving artists, aspiring writers, the cynics.
contains SPOILER...



Gordon Comstock is an annoying man to be with. He's filled with self-loathing, self-doubt and though he likes to speak in an outraged tone, he's pretty much a doormat. He likes to describe himself as "thirty and moth-eaten". Gordon only has one friend, Ravelston (a self-titled socialist), editor of a magazine called Antichrist.
Gordon likes to beg his girlfriend for sex -- and got super pissed when she said no. Rosemary - that's the girl's name - seems to tolerate a lot of his
...more
Sherien
Oct 23, 2010 Sherien rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sherien by: Ayu Palar
Shelves: 20th-century
Gordon Comstock declares war against money. His idealization is not to fall under the power of money. As much as he tries to be independent of money, money does control his life in every aspect. He gave up his promising job to try to pursue a career as a successful poet, tries to stay put to that thing he loves—poetry even though he has to go through a depressing poverty. How long can he endure this certain way of life he chooses to go through? At some certain point, he has to consider taking ba ...more
Paperback Percy London
Jan 27, 2009 Paperback Percy London rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Socialists and book sellers
This is a great book. It's the story of middle-class anti-her/poet Gordon Comstock who has declared war on money and the 'Money God'. Gordon tries to shun his middle-class upbringing by getting a shit job, living in a shit boarding house, eating shit food, drinking in shit pubs, not shaving and writing poetry (don't know it's shit or not). He hangs out with a rich socialist who buys him drinks. I wanted something truly awful to happen to Gordon Comstock. I would have given this novel four stars ...more
Darwin8u
Oh, what an ode to the money-Gods and aspidistras. An amazing, emotional journey of one man's fight against aspidistras and the inevitable pull of the money-Gods. This is a novel that is warm, hard, depressing, funny, absurd and at the end virtuous and redeeming. He simultaneously threads the needles of commerce, class, art and protest and weaves his story with satire and pathos, but doesn't make caricatures of ANY of his characters.
Petya
Подходих към книгата с любопитство, но тъй като Оруел е сред любимите ми автори, предполагам, че и очакванията ми бяха много високи. Вероятно точно поради тази причина давам 3 звезди на книгата - нисичка оценка за Оруел, но като се имат предвид възможностите на автора - заслужена, според мен. Темата е - какви са последствията, ако човек вземе решение да обяви война на парите. Замисълът на книгата в онзи период от живота на Оруел (романът е завършен през 1938 година), когато той е бил силно привл ...more
Yooperprof
Warning - if you are one of those people who can't stand novels without "sympathetic" central characters, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" is not for you.

Gordon Comstock is one of the most pathetic figures in twentieth century novels. He's one of those annoying artistic-type people who inflict unhappiness upon themselves and those around them because they regard themselves as too pure for the corrupt world we all live in. Gordon is self-pitying, he whinges about his life, and he constantly sponges o
...more
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary ed
...more
More about George Orwell...
1984 Animal Farm Animal Farm / 1984 Down and Out in Paris and London Homage to Catalonia

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“The mistake you make, don't you see,is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. After all, what do you achieve by refusing to make money? You're trying to behave as though one could stand right outside our economic system. But one can't. One's got to change the system, or one changes nothing. One can't put things right in a hole-and-corner way, if you take my meaning.” 32 likes
“This life we live nowadays. It's not life, it's stagnation death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses and the meaningless people inside them. Sometimes I think we're all corpses. Just rotting upright.” 30 likes
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