George Orwell's paean to the end of an idyllic era in British history, Coming Up for Air is a poignant account of one man's attempt to recapture childhood innocence as war looms on the horizon. George Bowling, forty-five, mortgaged, married with children, is an insurance salesman with an expanding waistline, a new set of false teeth - and a desperate desire to escape his dreary life.
He fears modern times - since, in 1939, the Second World War is imminent - foreseeing food queues, soldiers, secret police and tyranny.
So he decides to escape to the world of his childhood, to the village he remembers as a rural haven of peace and tranquillity.
But his return journey to Lower Binfield may bring only a more complete disillusionment ...'Very funny, as well as invigoratingly realistic ...Nineteen Eighty-Four is here in embryo.
So is Animal Farm ...not many novels carry the seeds of two classics as well as being richly readable themselves' John Carey, Sunday Times
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 25/01/2001
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141185699
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by dylanwolf
I've read this in a couple of days after expensively ordering it from Waterstones. I wanted to read it before seeing a play based upon the book at the Edinburgh Fringe. I've read 1984 and Animal Farm but not read any other Orwell. This I loved. I put aside the joys of Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea" which I've only just begun, forty pages or so in and read this with pleasure and ease. Iris Murdoch is a wonderful writer but makes much greater demands on the reader than Orwell. He wants to put across his philosophy; you can tell that it is his primary objective in writing the book. So he keeps it clear and simple. Iris Murdoch is deep and luxurious like rich, damp fruit cake. Orwell is more a rock cake, lumpier and to the point.I appreciated the fatalism of Bowling in "Coming Up for Air". He already knew his journey back to nostalgia was doomed before he set out on it. He knew he was hopelessly tied into the under the thumb fat middle-aged insurance salesman that he was. He as checking his exit route in order to see that it wasn't clear so that he had no need to chastise himself for his abject surrender to his fate as a nobody. Yet within that Orwell conjures an intoxicatingly attractive and sentimental vision of pre-WW1 England. George Bowling was not worthy of it as a child let alone now as a failing adult but it was there and it recieved him in a way that the modern pre-WW2 world didn't. He is caught up in the angst of the fast arriving war and is equally powerless to affect it as he is his own life. So disillusioned he can mock everything around him even as he recognises himself within it.A very much under-rated Orwell novel, I think.
Review by theboylatham
Seven out of ten. eBook.
Set in the days immediately leading up to WWII, this novel follows George Bowling as he temporarily escapes from his average life. He returns to the village where he grew up, only to find that everything had changed and he couldn't return to his younger, thinner days.
Strangely enjoyable for someone essentially having a mid-life crisis.