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Coming Up For Air Paperback – January 12, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Archeion Press, LLC (January 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605121630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605121635
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,057,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Insurance salesman George "Fatty" Bowling lives with his humorless wife and their two irritating children in a dull house in a tract development in the historyless London suburb of West Bletchley. The year is 1938; doomsayers are declaring that England will be at war again by 1941.

When George bets on an unlikely horse and wins, he finds himself with a little extra cash on his hands. What should he spend it on? "The alternatives, it seemed to me, were either a week-end with a woman or dribbling it quietly away on odds and ends such as cigars and double whiskeys." But a chance encounter with a poster in Charing Cross sets him off on a tremendous journey into his own memories--memories, especially, of a boyhood spent in Lower Binfield, the country village where he grew up. His recollections are pungent and detailed. Touch by touch, he paints for us a whole world that is already nearly lost: a world not yet ruled by the fear of war and not yet blighted by war's aftermath:

1913! My God! 1913! The stillness, the green water, the rushing of the weir! It'll never come again. I don't mean that 1913 will never come again. I mean the feeling inside you, the feeling of not being in a hurry and not being frightened, the feeling you've either had and don't need to be told about, or haven't had and won't ever have the chance to learn.
Alas, George finds that even Lower Binfield has been darkened by the bomber's shadow.

Readers of 1984 will recognize Orwell's desperate insistence on the importance of the individual, of memory, of history, and of language; and they will find in Fatty Bowling one of Orwell's most engaging creations--a warm, witty, thinking, remembering Everyman in a world that is fast learning not to think and not to remember, and thus swiftly losing its mind. --Daniel Hintzsche --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


''By any standards, a work of rare vigor and imagination . . . Confirms one's estimate of Mr. Orwell as a major prophet among the world's still lively minority of thinking men.'' --NewYork Herald Tribune Book Review

''Richard Brown reads Orwell's tale clearly, rhythmically, and deliberately.'' --Library Journal --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

Let's all get together and have a good hate.
Orrin C. Judd
The story is told by the hero in an odd mixture of stream of consciousness and autobiography.
H. Schneider
This is simply a very fine book and especially enjoyable read.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Susan Paxton on May 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's a shame that George Orwell's two best-known novels, "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty Four" are neither one his best novel. The peak of Orwell's fiction is this almost forgotten novel, "Coming Up for Air." Set in the last few years before a World War II that was obviously looming on the horizon, this elegant book memorably chronicles the life of George Bowling and his attempt to escape domesticity and the horrors to come for a few days by visiting his old home town. Every time I reread "Coming Up for Air," I wonder what Orwell might have achieved if he had lived longer and had not been as ill as he was in the ten years that remained to him. If all you've read of Orwell is his two "famous" novels, you owe it to yourself to read this.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tom on December 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Orwell may be perpetuating the ultimate fraud here. His gift as a reporter may just be the talent he needed to...pawn off his own life as fiction.
This fabulous novel documents the mid-life crisis of an aging and bloated insurance salesman who vaguely remembers a time when people weren't scared of war and believed that most of life's more visible elements would endure without end.
This isn't a comming of age story, its more of a passing of an age story. The miracle here is the incredible emotion the reader feels as "Tubby" recalls his youth and the passing of his he barely aknowledged as they happened...and while they don't quite haunt him now, he wonders how he lost them.
Set in pre-war (WWII) England, the spectre of Hitler and Stalin always loom large in the background as our hero decides to go after the fishing hole he never got back to 20 years ago.
It probably doesn't matter whether or not the fishing hole is still there, only that we realized that it needed to be found again.
Like all Orwell, as touching and emotional as this effort is, it is never dire or heavy. This is a quick and rewarding read, and, I am guessing, more autobiographical than the author would have us believe.
It is a shame that Orwell is known these days only for the monumental works high-school students are forced to read. As unlikely as it seems, the man who penned the brutal "1984" has also written a wonderful collection of light reflections that should not go unread. Consider "Burmese Days" and "A Clergy Man's Daughter" as well.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on April 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oddly, the pocket book cover quotes the NYT that this book is a 'charming ... minor masterpiece'. It took me a while to realize that this is exactly the case.
The novel is set in London in 1938, with WW2 looming. It was Orwell's first novel after risking his life in Catalonia. It was his last novel before Animal Farm. He still had ambitions to play in James Joyce's league as a novelist. He greatly admired Ulysses. In a way, his George Fatty Bowling is Orwell's Leo Bloom in London. But not quite. As charming as the novel is, it is also the final proof that Orwell was not the great novelist that he would have wished to be. He was a great essayist. Even his two later masterpieces, Animal Farm and 1984, essentially demonstrate that he was in first place an essayist and a man with a message.
Coming up for Air is the monologue of a middle aged middle class man who takes a break from his oppressive family and job life. He is the antisocial character who paints his front door green, where all others are blue. He escapes for an outing and 'comes up for air'.
The story is told by the hero in an odd mixture of stream of consciousness and autobiography. One might say, Orwell told parts of his own life story. And that is the crux of the matter: he remains the intellectual who sympathizes with the proles and despises the upward ambitions of the lower middle classes.
The book is a failure insofar as Orwell never manages to let Bowling speak. Bowling is just a pretext for Orwell's own words.
The book is not a failure, because what Orwell has to tell us of England between 1893 and 1938 is well worth knowing. Bowling should be an uninteresting man, by all criteria, but Orwell fails to let him bore us.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Philip Stephen Wood on October 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
As seasoned readers know, your response to any work is a combination of its intrinsic merit and timing. Maybe this just wasn't the right time to read this novel. Maybe I'll come back at some future time to revisit this assessment.

It simply did not register with me as did Orwell's other, non-political fiction, including the charming Keep The Aspidistra Flying. Part of it, I believe, arises from the fact that the novel is written in the first-person, which can be limiting in that it restricts us to the narrator's vocabulary and deprives us of Orwell's magnificent facility with langauge.

Now, as to the novel's merits. George "Fatty" Bowles, who, having won 17 pounds on a horse race, decides to use his winnings to escape and reflect upon his life for a week -- or, as he puts it, "to come up for air" -- is an engaging everyman, a person in whom all we old, ossified married types see ourself, and he captures perfectly the horrible nexus between memory and desire that a man's fifth decade often is. As he visits the town of his birth to witness how time has effaced its charm, we are with him all the way. His reflection on the approaching war is both moving and memorable. Because the first world war did not happen on our shores, it's hard for us to imagine its impact on the English imagination as that nation anticipated a reprise of that horrific, generation-destroying event. Orwell captures this dreadful anticipation very convincingly.

Finally, there's this: among all the people who have ever struggled for the poor and the middle-class, Orwell seems to have struggled more earnestly, yet to have been exempt from the tendency to idealize the people he was trying to help. Bowles is no one's ideal; he's just pretty much everyone's reality. He is convincingly middle-classed.

It is, as all this indicates, a fine novel. It simply doesn't represent the author at the height of his ability.
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More About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903-1950) was born in India and served with the Imperial Police in Burma before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works.

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