Andrew's Reviews > Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
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Sep 01, 11

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This book snuck up on me. I had picked up a cheap paperback copy on a whim having read a mention of its portrait of restaurant life in the Paris of the late 1920s. Cooking is a hobby of mine and I’ve had several friends in the industry. I’ve always been intrigued by the life of a chef. But DAOIPAL knocked me flat. It’s the most unsentimental examination of the grind of poverty I’ve ever read. Orwell’s observations of the Felliniesque characters he mingles with in his race to the bottom are brilliantly evocative. In fact, “Felliniesque” does Orwell a disservice. Orwell’s book is full of obviously real, flesh-and-blood humans in difficult circumstances. DAOIPAL is not a sideshow or a Hallmark special, but rather an unparalleled paean for social justice—“unparalleled” in my experience by being so plainspoken and direct, without a hint of sermonizing. DAOIPAL becomes a very tense read, somewhat like a thriller, because you begin to worry about every new person who enters Orwell’s narrative: where is their next meal coming from? How can people live like this? Why don't we do something?
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