Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  93 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Winner of the 2004 Whitbread Prize for Biography

"D. J. Taylor has written not only the best recent biography of George Orwell . . . but also one of the cleverest studies of the relationship of that life to the written word."
-The Washington Post Book World

In the last fifty years, Animal Farm and 1984 have sold more than forty million copies, and "Orwellian" is now a bywor
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 204)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Haarlson Phillipps
If you consider yourself a serious scholar of Orwell DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.
If you are curious about Orwell, especially his time in Spain during the Civil War - DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.
The book is riddled with inaccuracies, from simple errors to more subtle and deliberately misleading information which undermine Orwell's assessment of events during the Spanish Civil War.
Simple error? Turn to page 135 - Orwell's poem On a Ruined Farm near His Master's Voice Gramophone Factory is incorrectly titled a...more
Ayu Palar
Jan 20, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tyas
I am not a biography reader. But since I am a huge fan of Orwell, I feel the necessity to read his biography. I stumbled upon this book at QB, and immediately bought it. This is a must for all Orwell's fans. And who said biography is boring?
Robert DePriest
Jan 19, 2008 Robert DePriest added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: orwell fans
I finished reading a biography of George Orwell (aka Eric Blair). I have to say I'm kind of disappointed in him. Before I knew much about him, I thought he was some sort of literary and philosophical genius - especially about political philosophy. However, after reading this biography, I'm not so sure. The book paints a picture of a very bright child from a respectable family earning scholarship to Eton, and beginning a solid career as an Imperial servant in Burma, who decides that he wants to b...more
The moral of this story is that how happy or fulfilled you are has less to do with the incidents of your life than the temperament you were born with, or grew into. Orwell, as Taylor points out in a fine and unexpected chapter titled 'The Case Against', was a success in spite of himself, a man who actively and perversely courted failure all his life. He finally achieved his goal in the teeth of success, by dying just as the first fruits of wealth and fame were appearing on his plate.

Orwell was c...more
This was a very well-written biography that clearly does not seek to unwrap the full enigma that was George Orwell but rather offers a vivid, impressionistic portrait of the wider arc of the man's life and the literary-political milieu in which he moved. Orwell was, it seems here, quite an odd fish - well-familied but not rich, he went to Eton then on to serve in the colonial police in Burma, where he grew to despise the Empire and then back to Britain to begin his vocation as a writer/novelist...more
Reading a biography, you live someone's life in a matter of days; reading two, there's an anticipation of living it all over again, but no, this doesn't happen. This book is a commentary, the author provoking with his comments ("As a novelist, Orwell scarcely begins to exist" p350). In contrast, Peter Davison's "A Life in Letters" is a chronology, each letter a point in time.

A life from up close and from afar; these two books complement each other.
This is an interesting, ultimately fair rendering of a sometimes wacky literary figure. Seeing the path that George Orwell/Eric Blair takes in building the political philosophy is interesting; even the formative basics of birth in British India to the upbringing in mainland England with his mother.

For the casual biography reader, this book would make for tedious reading. I took a personal joy in reading this partly for the opportunities to see similarities between Orwell and characteristics of p...more
Marina Sofia
I knew next to nothing about his personal life (other than his fighting in Spain) and I'm not sure it did me a favour to find out more. He was more than a little unpleasant, it appears, as well as terribly anxious, even slightly paranoid. However, the author does an excellent job of interpreting and elucidating aspects of Orwell's work.
John Rennie
This is the first biography of Orwell I have read and as a big fan of his novels, reportage and essays I wasn't disappointed. This was a very nuanced study of the man, revealing the very human flaws in his personality without detracting from his essential decency and magnificent writing. highly recommended.
Not excessively sympathetic or inappropriately critical, this gave a more complete picture of Orwell's work, relationships, faults, errors, and contradictions than previous biographies. The unnumbered chapters are in many ways the most interesting.
No clue why I bought this. Loved his essays, was never a big fan of his books. Is it every man that begins to want to learn about other men's lives in minute detail when they reach their early thirties? George's was an interesting one.
Brilliant, even as a model for how to make biography interesting: following different angles rather than only one. Highly recommneded, myself an old Orwell fan of some 45 years.
Edward A.
Don't miss this if you care about how the voice of totalitarianism's greatest critic was born.
A tremendous book giving a detailed analysis of Orwell's life and thinking.
Very very detailed. More info than I needed or wanted.
Elena Leanca
Elena Leanca marked it as to-read
Jul 25, 2014
Paul Freeman
Paul Freeman marked it as to-read
Jul 23, 2014
Chiefyg marked it as to-read
Jul 12, 2014
Sarah marked it as to-read
Jul 11, 2014
Klawrence001 marked it as to-read
Jul 10, 2014
Jennifer Harrison
Jennifer Harrison marked it as to-read
Jul 03, 2014
Jane is currently reading it
Jul 01, 2014
Shannon marked it as to-read
Jun 18, 2014
Mat marked it as to-read
Jun 17, 2014
Chris marked it as to-read
Jun 11, 2014
Emer marked it as to-read
Jun 08, 2014
Robert added it
Jun 08, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Orwell and Religion 1 2 Apr 12, 2014 04:05AM  
David John Taylor (born 1960) is a British critic, novelist and biographer. After attending school in Norwich, he read Modern History at St John's College, Oxford, and has received the 2003 Whitbread Biography Award for his life of George Orwell.
He lives in Norwich and contributes to The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman and The Spectator among other publications.
He is...more
More about D.J. Taylor...
Kept Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 Derby Day Ask Alice The Windsor Faction

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »