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

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
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Sep 29, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: 20th-century, brit-lit

Do not read this book if you are unemployed.

Do not read this book if you are homeless.

Do not read this book if you are worried about the tanking economy.

Do not read this book if you have no retirement savings.

Do not read this book if you don't like eating stale bread and margarine.

Do not read this book if you like eating in restaurants.

Do not read this book if you are sensitive to foul odors.

Do not read this book if you are one of those people who carries a hand-sanitizer at all times.

Do not read this book if you are an artist, writer, musician or other creative occupation which certainly guarantees brushes with poverty.

If you do read this book (which I highly recommend) make sure you have some bubble bath on hand as you will need a nice long well-perfumed soak afterwards.
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2007 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 29, 2008 – Shelved as: 20th-century
June 29, 2008 – Shelved as: brit-lit
June 29, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 2-51)





message 51: by W.B. (new)

W.B. Very original and entertaining review, Kimley!


Kimley Thanks Tracy and W.!

The review was inspired by the fact that the entire time I was reading it I kept thinking I really shouldn't be reading this right now...


Kimley Thanks Je ne sais quoi!

Definitely a book worth reading - just a bit unsettling considering the current economic climate.

Fortunately I like bread although preferably fresh with butter (from Europe) not margarine.



message 48: by Michael (last edited Jun 30, 2008 10:22AM) (new) - added it

Michael Wonderful review. I've been thinking of reading this for some time, being a fan of Orwell's style, and you've just prompted me to pick it up immediately. Thanks.


message 47: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Though I want to read this book after this review, I can't, as I am v. afraid about the economy and my retirement savings.. well.. we have a great new bed now.

good review, Kimley. :)


Kimley Thanks Michael & Kelly!

As with all things Orwellian, this book definitely veers dangerously towards the dark and depressing side, teetering on the abyss but again, as with all things Orwellian, there's an underlying humanity that makes you think OK, I'm not quite ready to give up on this wretched planet yet even if I'm not completely sure why.


message 45: by Todd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Todd I did not see your comments before starting to read this book, now i am afraid, and can see where you are going with this.


Kimley Well Todd, so sorry you weren't warned in time...

Orwell should always be approached with a bit of trepidation but it's well worth the read!

Just make sure you have that bubble bath on hand and you'll be fine.


message 43: by Todd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Todd ha yes, they are very dirty in the book so far


c.vance c.vance think you can only enjoy this book if you defy all your suggestions...
Eric Blair might have rolled a bit from that review.


message 41: by Kimley (last edited Mar 15, 2010 06:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley Ha! I'm rather enjoying the thought that Mr. Blair might get his knickers in a twist over my admittedly feeble attempt at black humor.

But aside from that we are in agreement. The review was in fact meant to screen out those who are the least bit squeamish. Those who know what it's like to get a bit of dirt under their nails would, I concur, be more likely to appreciate Orwell's bleak outlook.


message 40: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Sheaffer Creative review Kimley. I'm tempted to pick this one up to feed the adventurous part of me that's usually hidden in a closet deep in the folds of my grey matter.


Kimley Thanks, Scott. I think this one will suit you just fine!


Jenniferdwalker Walker I'm just finishing my PhD and I'm scared about getting a job afterwards. However, oddly this book made me feel grateful for everything I have and taught me not to take even the smallest luxuries for granted. I think it depends on whether your an optimist or a pessimist while reading this. Creative review though. :)


Andrew Great and creative review.


Rogue Reader Orwell chose to experience poverty. How many are so fortunate?


message 35: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Brumback If you read his biography, you may appreciate that he did not necessarily choose poverty. However, as a recovering alcoholic, I can understand the feelings he described re the freedom from anxiety and fear once you have finally reached the bottom.


Rachel I would disagree, and say that if you are any of those things listed above all the more urgency to read this book!


message 33: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Brumback Well said.....


message 32: by Amaan (new) - added it

Amaan Ahmad I like the review! Intriguing... I wanna read the book ;)


Chalo I wish I had read this before I started reading.


Harry Kimley, it is very true! I cannot agree more with the do-nots put forward by you. I am still reading the book. Actually it is quite an interesting read. Thanks for your originality and humour!


message 29: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Alice Who is Eric Blair please?


Harry Eric Blair is the real name of George Orwell. He wrote under the pseudonym of a George Orwell.


message 27: by Hung (new) - added it

Hung Pham Wonderful. Definitely read this book


James should have read your review before/instead of the book ;)


Natalie Carney These are all the reasons why you should read this book! Remove the 'not' from all these sentences.


Fanfei It's a book dedicated to the middle-class. But there is no reason to keep those who are not from reading it.


message 23: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin This is one of the most intriguing reviews I've ever read.


message 22: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil Man, This is best and shortest review I ever read.Thank you. I am not reading this book because of review though. George is my favourite author. But, I definitely would have.....if otherwise


message 21: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin @Cynthia Eric Arthur Blair was his real name and he used George Orwell as his pen name.


message 20: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson What a great review, Kimley!!


Kimley Thanks everyone for the kind words!


Ahmed Abdelkarim I am reading this book unemployed : bankrubt : almost homless in total deubt but thatd all i have s book , i have been throughout all what he suffered since i was 12 in my country egypt , and after the revolution here i am down and out in norway with all the poverty and bad circumstances in the world all i have in my life is this book right now , nice review though greetings
Ahmed


message 17: by حسن (new)

حسن well written


message 16: by Toby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toby Harries I listened to this book while working as a kitchen porter hahah


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Pardus Wow! Are YOU ever a special princess who's never had to soil her hands. This book is "Kitchen Confidential" for the early 20th century.
://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33313.Kit...

Kitchen life really hasn't changed much in 100 years. It's hard, brutal, pays poorly and is the domain of misfits, immigrants, criminals, and talented misanthropes. Stay at home, have your service staff cook and clean for you, and make sure to use sani-wipes at every turn. Do Not go out to eat and ruin the restaurant's good day.


Kimley Michael wrote: "Wow! Are YOU ever a special princess who's never had to soil her hands. This book is "Kitchen Confidential" for the early 20th century.
://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33313.Kit..."


Yep, a princess who likes to go slumming. Although I’d never eat in a restaurant on a Monday because that would simply be far too beastly!

For what it’s worth, I think either I’ve misunderstood your comment* or you’ve misunderstood my review. I’ll attempt to clarify on my end. I had hoped that my five-star rating and urging to read the book would make it clear that I was being sarcastic. The internet is full of misunderstandings and we all interpret things with our own experiences/histories/baggage but my suspicion is that you and I are actually more in agreement on this book and princesses than not...

* I’ve understood your comment to be a condescending insult slung under the assumption that I am somehow far too precious to appreciate or acknowledge that the world is full of a seething dark underbelly that my pristine hands should never come in contact with. An assumption that couldn’t be further from the truth... Sani-wipes be damned!


message 13: by James (new)

James White I disagree. When I was homeless in London in 1997-8 I would have loved to read this. I worked as a plongeur in various west end London hotels and restaurants and slept in modern day spikes Dean Street and Bayswater hostels. Everything he wrote about still exists. The job centre on Denmark Street used to give out Kitchen Porter jobs at 7am if you turned up there on time, where you worked for 8 hours for a meal and £5 an hour to supplement your dole. They staff knew about it of course but allowed it. One day I worked from 8am to 3pm and my relief never arrived so I was asked to keep working until the evening. At 10pm, having walked 4 miles to the job and having eaten one meal that day so far, I said I was exhausted and needed food and sleep and I could work no more, I was shooed off the premises and handed £20 and told to be grateful - for 14 hours work. I cried as I walked home, unable to afford a bus fare as I was trying to pay for my night school course. This was a posh restaurant in Jermyn Street (I would name and shame them if I could remember it), and it was as disgusting as anything Orwell writes of. This book would have been like having a friend whisper over my shoulder. I absolutely loved it, and just wish I'd known of it at the time.


Lovmelovmycats Hart Or if you don't want to read a rape story that's all about the existential angst of the f*ckin rapist...


Edward bad review. everyone should have an idea of what it is to be poor and struggling. I quite enjoyed the book anyway.


message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Lambroschino Review is a slick come on. The writer clearly wants it read! PS. Around the time it's set Ho Chi Minh was paying his debt to Marxist reality as a Parisian plongeur! PPS. I read it while working as a plongeur when(1974) revolution was the last chance to rescue civilization. Oh well.


message 9: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Alice Robert:
*What* is a "plongeur"?! 😄


message 8: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Alice Michael: Don't forget people with disabilities!
Your comment brought back memories of a job I had in my late teens in downtown Toronto. (My boyfriend and I had dropped out of high school and run away from home with nothing.)
I worked as the main waitress; it was a very cool coffeehouse, with poets, singers, from both the US and Canada, hitchhiking from coffeehouse to café, from one end of the continent to the other (Montreal to San Francisco was the circuit I remember best.)
There was a poet who was the dishwasher. He had that condition that makes your eyes move all the time, very thick glasses.
The kitchen was hot, rundown, cramped and lonely. And that was just the physical work environment. He was so at the bottom of the social/sexual pecking order. And so aware of the injustice, which aroused anger, bitterness, resentment, rage.
I was young, immature, revelling in my freedom, and a sexual object of some value (not much but more than his). And, I worked in the dining area, with constantly changing customers, checkered tablecloths, candles and music!
This man's position was basically lost on me. I don't remember his name (this was in the mid 1960s!). Have no idea if he was ever able to earn a living as a poet, if he ever came upon people who respected him, loved him, recognized his rights to equality, decent working conditions, pay, ETC.!


message 7: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben G Also don't read this book if you are Jewish.


message 6: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Alice Ben Why not?!


message 5: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben G Cynthia; at the very least, there are anecdotes told about two people whom are downright unscrupulous. It happens that they are (according to Orwell) Jewish. But the way he writes it, referring to them as "a Jew" or "the Jew" seems to teeter almost on that being the
reason for their behaviours. Orwell mentions another character seems as though he could be Jewish, but the character denies it. It almost seems that the suggestion was an accusation.

You could say I'm being over sensitive, but it seems that everyone in the book who is Jewish appears to be doing, or to have done, something wrong. No one showing kindness or honesty is ever described as Jewish or speculated to be.

I'm not saying Orwell was all in all Anti-Semetic, but there seems to be an undercurrent of it at times in this book.


Edward You are being overly sensitive and you need to realise that the pre-war - as many would today say - xenophobia was very normal and commonplace. Orwell mentions many stereotypes of races and nationalities in this book.
And I'm sure you can imagine his frustration at being tricked out of the little money he had left.


message 3: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Alice Edward: Rationalizing, justifying, explaining away bigotry, in the many ways humans have for thousands of years, will not ever liberate us from it.


Edward You are lying to yourself if you honestly think bigotry is something that can be solved. Do you think Orwell said the things he did because he was a bigot, or because the things he saw and the people he met lead him to the conclusions he made?
Is it not easier to grow a backbone than to aim to liberate the world from bigotry, like some 1960s new hippy fantasy?


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