Review of: Burning Down George Orwell’s House by Andrew Ervin
I picked this ARC up at the MPIBA trade show back in October, firstly because of the title, secondly because there was a wolf on the front cover, and thirdly because it took place in Scotland, where I had recently returned from. Sadly, I did not make it to the Isle of Jura, where the story takes place, but that wasn’t going to deter me.
Burning Down George Orwell’s House tells the story of Ray Welter, once a big time advertiser in Chicago who finds himself on a fairly remote island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. After months spent pushing large, gas-guzzling SUVs onto the American public, Ray has a change of heart about who he is and what he’s doing with his life. His wife has left him, he’s racked with guilt and he has no idea who he is.
So he packs up what few belongings he has and blows all his money on a six month lease on George Orwell’s old house, the same on in which he wrote most of 1984. Ray has been obsessed with 1984 since he read it years ago. So what better place to come and rediscover yourself? But Ray has to contended with the locals on the island, most of which who are very pleasant and other much less so.
Okay, I liked this book for a few reasons. First off, it was set in Scotland. Every time I picked up the book it made me very nostalgic and I got to practice my Scottish accent in my head while I read. Not much really happens in the book as far as action or adventure or anything like that. It was really a story of self discovery and introspection and reflection, which can be really boring and preachy if you don’t do it well. But I would say Ervin did a very nice job.
The story and Ray’s own journey seemed dependent on the story of 1984 but not in a way like it was a crutch. Ray’s journey seemed almost a mirror of Winston Smith’s journey but inverted. Smith was opposed to the oppression of Big Brother but in the end admires the regime. Ray puts himself in a world he feels is very similar to that of Big Brother (the advertising world) and works to manipulate people into thinking they want something and then tries to escape our very Orwellian world.
I feel like the book is very topical to our own day and age. So much of our lives can be, and will be, dictated by what we are fed by the media, by our government, by however is looking to make a buck off of us and keep us in line. I appreciate very much Ray’s struggle to figure out who he is and what really matters to him. It’s a very admiral thing to do, especially since not everyone is so quick to question the way things are.
I certainly don’t think this kind of book is for everyone. I would say you have to enjoy more literary types of work to pick this book up. But I certainly liked it.
P.S. There’s a werewolf and lots of scotch, too.