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I never got to read George Orwell in high school and man am I happy that I took the time to read 1984 this May, thus completing my bind-up edition of Animal Farm and 1984.
I read Animal Farm about a year ago now, but never got around to reviewing it; so, before I get into 1984, let me share a few of my thoughts on Orwell's allegorical novella. Though simple in its scope, Animal Farm worked really well for me. Like most of the allegories that I've read, Animal Farm was very easy to understand and I can see how some people might find that annoying, but I personally didn't mind at all. In fact, I found the simplicity to be part of this piece's genius. I particularly enjoyed the last line. Perfect. Overall, I'd give Animal Farm four out of five stars, not so much because of any of it's failings, but because I just can't put it on the same level as the novels that I've given five out five stars.
Now on to 1984. I really loved certain elements of this novel, particular the political atmosphere and the dystopian setting. When these elements were at the forefront, I sincerely enjoyed reading it. However, when Orwell moved into Winston's romance, I became considerably less engaged. When the politics were the main focus, I didn't mind the fact that character development wasn't a priority, or strength, for Orwell, but this lack of development really stuck out during the romantic story line. I also found myself troubled by Orwell's depictions of women. I would need to analyze these depictions with greater diligence to completely articulate my thoughts, but, as a basic gut reaction, I found myself uneasy with the seeming lack of depth in the main female character, who doesn't have a name for much of the novel, and whose name now escapes me. Though I am troubled by Orwell's female lead, I don't think that this necessarily takes away from the genius of his work; I merely acknowledge that this is a weak aspect of his writing.
Overall, I really enjoyed 1984, but really think it could have done without the romance entirely. To my mind, the political atmosphere and world building are the novel's greatest strength. Four out of five stars.