D.K. Powell's Reviews > Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell
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it was amazing

Ah, at last, a classic book which still deserves its place in the canon of great literature!

If you're a regular reader of my reviewers you'll know I'm close to despairing over the books which are considered 'must-reads' long after their authors are dead. Books like 'Tess of the D'Ubervilles', 'Lord Jim' and even 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' leave me cold or even outraged that they're held in such high esteem. I almost wonder if the previous generation were starved of any real literature to read 'back then'.

Then along comes Orwell's 'Animal Farm' - which I re-read to bring myself back up to speed as some of my English students are studying this book for their examinations. I read it last when I was their age and have taught about it many times over the last twenty years without actually picking the book back up. I feared the death of another much-beloved literary hero from my youth, but I was wrong, I'm very pleased to say.

Orwell's short allegorical novel about the Russian Revolution and aftermath is still very well known even by those who have never read the book. The tale of Napoleon, Snowball and the other animals on the farm who rise up, kick out Farmer Jones and run their own collective seems to resonate even though the Soviet Union is now a thing of the past and no young person today bar the history student has a clue what the Cold War was all about. Why this should be, I don't know. Perhaps because the book continues on the list of those to be studied in schools? In which case - long may that continue!

'Animal Farm' is a truly intelligent book. Orwell's cleverness drips from the pages and it feels, at times, as though you're sharing a private joke with him against those reading the story who have no idea what it is really all about. Even if you do, you can spend hours trying to work out which parts are invented for plot purposes and which actually took place; or even who is real. Napoleon is Stalin and Snowball Trotsky: fair enough. But the Old Major? Some say Marx, others Lenin, still others (I am one of them) an amalgamation of the two. Then there's Boxer and Squealer and Clover and... Many times, I was tempted to reach for my phone to check out details and see if I could figure out what person a character was or what event really took place. Orwell cleverly mixes it all up and entertains all the way. You can feel the twinkle in his eye as he narrates.

The style of the book is very much of its day. Mid-40s writing akin to Tolkien or C.S. Lewis' novels. But whereas those books do feel a little dated (especially CSL's works) somehow Orwell still feels fresh. I think this is because he knows he's not actually writing a children's book but is parodying the style while also openly criticising soviet policies. There is a secret intention in this book which is, paradoxically, clear and open to all. Such is Orwell's genius. The result is super little book which titillates yet also makes you think -and deeply so.
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Reading Progress

September 26, 2018 – Started Reading
September 26, 2018 – Shelved
September 29, 2018 – Finished Reading

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