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A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell

A Clergyman's Daughter

by George Orwell

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Orwell notoriously categorised his own novel as "bollocks" in a letter to Henry Miller shortly after its publication — you can see his point, but Orwell even on a bad day still has something. The outer sections of the book may be rather routine and forgettable, but the hop-picking chapter is powerful stuff, and even the slightly clumsy James Joyce pastiche in the Trafalgar Square section manages to be quite effective from time to time. Orwell is able to write with conviction when he's talking about living rough, although there's a lot of overlap with Down and out in Paris and London, of course.
(The school chapter is also clearly based on personal experience, but oddly enough doesn't work as well: Orwell just comes across as too bitter to be convincing.)
So it's not a total waste of time, but the whole thing doesn't really mesh together to make a working novel. Probably because Orwell was weak enough let Dorothy be plucked out of poverty by a fairy godfather, as we knew she ought to be, but then couldn't force himself to write a romantic happy-end, so that we're left high and dry between cold pessimism and rosy optimism, not knowing where we are meant to be... ( )
1 vote thorold | Dec 7, 2013 |
A book to be avoided at all costs if you like Orwell and want to keep thinking he was such a consistently good writer and storyteller. On the other hand, if you hated 1984 in school and are looking for ammunition against him, this book is it. Plus point: the book is very short. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
George Orwell's second Novel The Clergyman's Daughter is set on a small town in England where attendance at mass is dwindling and the church is falling into disrepair. The Clergyman is a crotchety old fellow who relied on his daughter for every need-tending to three meals a day, paying the bills, assisting the church schoolchildren with their play, and other things that pit incredible demands on her time. She struggles to convince her father to help her by selling off some trinkets so as to pay off certain debts, but he steadfastly refuses. And she faces other worries from a local playboy who tried to seduce her. Soon enough she falls asleep late at night stressed and overdue with work. Before she knows it she is lying on a street in dirty clothes without any memory of where she is or how she got there. From here the tale takes a different direction entirely, with Dorothy struggling to survive as a migrant worker and then as an abused schoolmistress. She suffers the pangs of poverty, and sees what it is truly like for the first time. She learns to pick herself up and adapt to the circumstances, and benefits from her middle class accent and connections to distant but rich relatives. All of this changes Dorothy, who was an obedient but prudent young woman just trying to do right by her father. She learns how hard life is for some, and what it takes to truly survive. In the end she loses her religion, which disconcerts her. But she feels no connection to God after this experience, and struggles to say a meaningful prayer. Dorothy is finally rescued by Mr. Warburton, the local playboy who finds her in hiding and asks her hand in marriage. She returns to her father and to the town where she lived, and falls back in to the daily rhythms of life. The bills start to pile up again, and demands on Dorothy's time begin again to grow. She doesn't avoid this life; she fully accepts it, despite the demands on her and the incredible challenges she has just been through. But Dorothy wants normalcy and predictability in her life, which is what we all want. She forgets the poverty she saw, but then again this makes her life easier.

This third effort by George Orwell is an improvement over his previous novel, Burmese Days, which tried too hard to tell a story. A Clergyman's Daughter again focuses on a single character who struggles with the society around her. It is through her eyes that we see the struggles of poverty, of getting a good education, of social class, of religion, and of a woman's role. Many of these experiences reflect George Orwells's view of how the world operates and reflect his own personal experiences.

I liked this book for its simplicity, although Dorothy was not someone I closely identified with. I felt sorry for her, but disappointed that she didn't change her lifestyle after all she had been through. She was an interesting character, but not one too cheer for in the end. ( )
2 vote mrminjares | Sep 23, 2010 |
A very funny, heartwarming, sad novel about the tribulations of the title character. This has much to say about the mores and attitudes of 1930s small town life. Brilliant stuff. ( )
  john257hopper | May 18, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Orwell holds an acid pen and that can often be very intriguing. The book does contain some reference to race and creed, so this is one side of Orwell's writing that some may find unsavoury.
Orwell also touches on mental health issues as Dorothy endures her nervous breakdown. It is an interesting if sometimes slightly grim story and at the end we are left to draw our own conclusions about the principal character. Maybe many would consider this as one of Orwell's lesser works but it does have meaning and substance and I am sure that the book has parts where Orwell meant to unsettle his readers.
added by John_Vaughan | editHelium, Sarah Lewis (Jul 23, 2011)
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As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid little bomb of bell metal, Dorothy, wrenched from the depths of some complex, troubling dream, awoke with a start and lay on her back looking into the darkness in extreme exhaustion.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156180650, Paperback)

At the distance of a half-century, this satiric social fiction is both a treasure and a disappointment. Orwell's wit is priceless--and ruthless--as he describes rural Church of England parish life; the transitory culture of the hops harvest; a brothel's soiled linen; not to mention when his heroine hobnobs with the Trafalgar Square homeless of a bitter winter's night or bullies bored students in a fourth-rate private school: "Last term the girls had behaved badly, because she had started by treating them as human beings, and later on, when the lessons that interested them were discontinued, they had rebelled like human beings. But if you are obliged to teach children rubbish, you must not treat them as human beings.... Before all else, you must teach them it is more painful to rebel than to obey."

Orwell's compassion for Dorothy Hare, ensnared by faith, birth, and gender to toil thanklessly as her minister father's unpaid curate, is admirable, and his evocation, early in the novel, of a woman's consciousness totally subsumed by the mostly trivial demands of others stands shoulder to shoulder with the best feminist fiction. The dialogues between Dorothy and her dissolute middle-aged suitor, Mr. Warburton, concerning human nature, faith, and morality, are smart and fun to read. The problem (and here Orwell commits the sort of sin he denounces in Dickens) is that the novel's plot--Dorothy's picaresque amnesiac travels through the seamy side of English life--feels manufactured for the author's satiric purposes. Orwell never relinquishes his cleverness, or his maleness, to become his heroine, with the result that the reader never surrenders wholly to the fiction. Thus A Clergyman's Daughter, while a pleasure to pick up, is not quite a book one can't put down. --Joyce Thompson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Dorothy Hare, the clergyman's daughter, grows up with a tyrannical father, but when she blacks out one day, and ends up with amnesia, wandering the streets of Kent, and sleeping in Trafalgar Square, she loses more than just memory.

» see all 3 descriptions

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