Having decided to continue consuming the paperbacks that line my bookshelves before adding to an ever-increasing book collection with new purchases, George Orwell's 'Coming Up For Air' was my first book of 2009. I've long been an admire of Orwell's writing, and whilst many people simply associate the great man with '1984' and 'Animal Farm', it's easy to forget that he wrote so many other equally impressive pieces of literature.
'Coming Up For Air' documents the childhood reminiscences of the fictional George Bowling, set off by his increasing apathy towards life and the impending doom of the Second World War. As he recounts the way in which England has changed since his childhood, he launches into an idyllic reflection of an English country upbringing and its difference to the life he now lives; stuck in the nine-to-five rat-trap, stuck with financial and marital obligations, stuck in the decline of society.
Bowling resolves to revisit the town of his childhood, 'coming up for air' as he attempts to recapture the England that seems so lost to him now. Whereas one might hope that to some degree he finds it, those familiar with Orwellian novels will realise that this mission is futile, and Bowling is left even more disillusioned and dejected with modern life than ever before.
What particularly struck me, beautifully, was the timing of my reading this book; 2009 is supposed to be a foreboding year full of continued economic doom and turmoil, whilst we nostalgically yearn for the good times of yesteryear - a book written in 1939 and just as relevant today.
In addition to this however, 'Coming Up For Air' spends the majority of its 232 pages regaling a gloriously romantic view of England lost - a poignant account that at the same time as pulling the heart strings of every Englishman reading it, also raises a marked sadness at the loss of the simple way of life that most of us dream of.