Burmese Days by George Orwell

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell’s first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, ‘after all, natives were natives – interesting, no doubt, but finally … an inferior people’. When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory’s life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the ‘lie’ of colonial life.”

REVIEW: Learning about British colonial rule in India during my first year of university this year really helped me to understand and appreciate the complex issues that Orwell deals with in this book. Orwell’s own experiences in Burma have clearly influenced the novel and show the corrupt and harsh nature of British Imperial rule in India without holding back, which, I would imagine, would have made the novel highly shocking at the time of its publication. My favourite thing about the novel was Orwell’s immense description of Burma – I could almost feel the heat and see the jungles, rivers and villages that Orwell described in such depth and detail, and I hugely admire Orwell for this amazing skill that made the book the perfect form of escapism. The character of Flory reminded me very much of Winston Smith in Orwell’s notorious ‘1984’, in that the reader admires him for his principles – Flory does not share the same racist views as his British contemporaries, and is happy to befriend the local people, particularly Doctor Veraswami – but yet finds in him many dislikeable traits, such as cowardice and a quickness to temper. Flory’s love interest, Elizabeth Lackersteen, is also a very interesting character; she has little to no feeling for Flory and is entirely different to him in character, but his feelings for her remain even after her affair with Verrall. Nothing could have shocked me more than the ending of the novel, however, in which we find out the depth of Flory’s feelings for Elizabeth, and it is this ending that has led me to give the novel a rating of 3.5 instead of 4 – I cannot bear to read of any harm coming to animals, and the end met by Flory’s loveable puppy, Flo, was enough for me to reduce my rating of this novel! It was, however, a fitting ending to the story, and I would still highly recommend this book to any Orwell fans or those interested in British colonial rule in India. 

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