Book Review: Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out in Paris and London
By George Orwell

Books dealing with the worst hardships of life have always had a special place in my heart. I've found comfort in reading about lives worse than my own. Reading books like The Grapes of Wrath, The Bluest Eye, The Jungle and Night shake me to be more grateful for what I have. Reading books like these take my focus off what I don't. While George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London isn't nearly as serious as the prior mentioned books, it will still be added to my shelf of miserable favorites.

This is a semi-fictional account of Orwell's own experiences in Paris and London in the early 20th century. It was published in 1933 and it was his first full-length work. His account of living in slums and squalor is terrible and interesting. The feel is very vintage and although the poverty levels are serious, the book is actually light hearted, most of the time.

This would have been a perfect book, but there were a couple instances of antisemitism, which still surprise me, even older books. I read up on it a little and found that he considered himself a defender of the Jews. It made me wonder if some of the antisemitism was in jest. One cool thing I learned about Orwell in my quick research was that he was friends with Arthur Koestler, author of Darkness at Noon. Holy cats! To be a fly on the wall in that friendship!

Anyway, I really liked this book because it perfectly described the starving artist's life: battling bugs, starvation and poverty; counting money like there's no tomorrow (because there isn't); and realizing that humanity is highly unattractive when the bare essentials of life aren't met. I loved it!

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