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Imagine crossing E.M. Forster with Jane Austen. Stir in a bit of socialist doctrine, a sprig of satire, strong Indian curry, and a couple quarts of good English gin and you get something close to the flavor of George Orwell's intensely readable and deftly plotted Burmese Days. In 1930, Kyauktada, Upper Burma, is one of the least auspicious postings in the ailing British Empire--and then the order comes that the European Club, previously for whites only, must elect one token native member. This edict brings out the worst in this woefully enclosed society, not to mention among the natives who would become the One. Orwell mines his own Anglo-Indian background to evoke both the suffocating heat and the stifling pettiness that are the central facts of colonial life: "Mr. MacGregor told his anecdote about Prome, which could be produced in almost any context. And then the conversation veered back to the old, never-palling subject--the insolence of the natives, the supineness of the Government, the dear dead days when the British Raj was the Raj and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. The topic was never let alone for long, partly because of Ellis's obsession. Besides, you could forgive the Europeans a great deal of their bitterness. Living and working among Orientals would try the temper of a saint."
Protagonist James Flory is a timber merchant, whose facial birthmark serves as an outward expression of the ironic and left-leaning habits of mind that make him inwardly different from his coevals. Flory appreciates the local culture, has native allegiances, and detests the racist machinations of his fellow Club members. Alas, he doesn't always possess the moral courage, or the energy, to stand against them. His almost embarrassingly Anglophile friend, Dr. Veraswami, the highest-ranking native official, seems a shoo-in for Club membership, until Machiavellian magistrate U Po Kyin launches a campaign to discredit him that results, ultimately, in the loss not just of reputations but of lives. Whether to endorse Veraswami or to betray him becomes a kind of litmus test of Flory's character.
Against this backdrop of politics and ethics, Orwell throws the shadow of romance. The arrival of the bobbed blonde, marriageable, and resolutely anti-intellectual Elizabeth Lackersteen not only casts Flory as hapless suitor but gives Orwell the chance to show that he's as astute a reporter of nuanced social interactions as he is of political intrigues. In fact, his combination of an astringently populist sensibility, dead-on observations of human behavior, formidable conjuring skills, and no-frills prose make for historical fiction that stands triumphantly outside of time. --Joyce Thompson
U Po Kyin's campaign against Dr. Veraswami turns out to be intended simply to further his aim of becoming a member of the European Club in Kyauktada. The club has been put under pressure to elect a native member and Dr. Veraswami is the most likely candidate. U Po Kyin arranges the escape of a prisoner and plans a rebellion for which he intends that Dr. Veraswami should get the blame. The rebellion begins and is quickly put down, but a native rebel is killed by acting Divisional Forest Officer, Maxwell. A few days later, the body of Maxwell is brought back to the town. This creates a tension between the Burmese and the Europeans, exacerbated by a vicious attack on native children by the spiteful Ellis. A large riot begins and Flory becomes the hero for bringing it under control with some support by Dr. Veraswami. U Po Kyin tries to claim credit but is disbelieved and Dr. Veraswami's prestige is restored.
Verrall leaves Kyauktada without even saying goodbye to Elizabeth and she falls for Flory again. Flory is happy and plans to marry Elizabeth. However, U Po Kyin has not given up; he hires Flory's former Burmese mistress to create a scene in front of Elizabeth during the sermon at Sunday church. Flory is disgraced and Elizabeth refuses to have anything more to do with him. Overcome by the loss and seeing no future for himself, Flory commits suicide.
Dr. Veraswami is demoted and sent to a different district and U Po Kyin is elected to the Club. U Po Kyin's plans have succeeded and he plans to redeem his life and cleanse his sins by financing pagodas. He dies of apoplexy before he can even start on building and his servant envisages him returning to life as a frog. Elizabeth eventually marries Macgregor, the Deputy Commissioner. --Wikipedia --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Editorial Reviews
If you haven't read 1984 yet read this. If you have read this anyway.Published 2 days ago by Alec Kimball
Because I am so impressed with this stunning book, I came back to Amazon to read the reviews and was totally nonplussed to read the Wikipedia review which gives the ending. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Susan Mellups
Burmese Days is disturbing. You quickly understand that the author is using the novel to reveal the nature of the British Colonial system in Burma. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Anne M Chappel
Kind of awful. Just read it because I was going to Burma. There are so many better books that give you a colorful perspective on the social landscape and country and general.Published 19 days ago by Nerina McDonald
Plodding,slow, I expected more from the writer of "Animal Farm" and "1984".Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
Orwell is a well-known author; it is interesting to trace his concerns and his development as a thinker and writer in this book as well as his others.Published 28 days ago by A.C. Westfall
Ripe with spelling and grammar errors though, irritating. Maybe different publishers have better editions. Do a little research. Read more
This has long been my favorite of his novels. I grew up in SE Asia & before I get through the 1st paragraph, I'm there again. Read morePublished 1 month ago by max maynard
Anyone who has lived in a remote location in the developing world will recognize the atmosphere and the types of characters Orwell creates in Burmese Days. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Onowhereman