Was thinking of what book to read for the week and I chanced on one of Orwell’s lesser known novels; it is a rather bleak novel set in 1938/1939. It talks about about nostalgia, different classes and strata in society, relationships between men and women and middle age. I have always known Orwell was a political writer from my days of Reading his Animal Farm in high school literature class but he is quoted as saying
“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.”
and so if this book doesn’t make that much of a splash to a first time reader, it would be understandable and not that surprising.
Coming up for Air is told in the first person by George Bowling; our main character who is called ‘Tubby’ in page 8,
‘Got a match, Tubby?’
I felt for my matches. ‘Tubby’, you notice………… and began thinking about my figure as i’d studied it in my bath that morning.’ is a man living in the suburbs with a wife and two children, in his late 40s and in a drab but relatively stable white collar job. In terms of plot, at the beginning of the book George is bemoaning his lot as a salesman, his wife’s constant whining about insufficient funds, and life in general. We are then introduced to the nostalgia where he recalls his childhood pre 1914 in the Edwardian era in a town called Lower Binfield amongst other rare moments.
I personally find George Bowling endearing as he is human, and not some statue. He has some moments of visual clarity when he almost grasps how ridiculous he is, checking himself out in the mirror before leaving the house and a whining wife for the day but not quite there by the looks of it.
Usually Orwell makes his female characters more rounded like Julia in 1984 but he emphasizes the person of George Bowling who sees women including his wife in two-dimensional ways.
It is a good read so far with a tinge of humour here and there especially where his kids force him out of the bathroom on page 2′
” But dadda! I wanna go somewhere!’
‘ Go somewhere else, then. Hop it. I’m having my bath.’
‘ Dad-DA! I wanna GO SOME–WHERE!’
but it is a different layer to what one has come to expect from George Orwell.