Review published on June 3, 2017.
This is a surprisingly absorbing read about two of the world’s great authors from the WW2 era. Each person being totally different from the other, apart from the one message that each held dear to their hearts, and that was freedom. The very title, Churchill & Orwell: The Fight For Freedom, tells us all we really need to know about the content, but these separate biographies help fill the reader in with their individual stories. I can only say how the book effected me personally, their own drive for freedom took whatever path they thought fit, one by writing books mainly, whilst the other was a famous orator, his use of grandiloquent words and phrases reached millions, and these two people have made me feel much happier that we live in Great Britain today.
It came as a bit of a mind twist at first, to try and correlate the two people, one is the late Winston Churchill, the other Eric Blair, although his nom de plume was George Orwell. The first inclination of similarity in life comes almost on the first page. A car, on New York’s Fifth Avenue, hit Winston Churchill when he was aged 56 years. This was in 1931 and Winston was lucky to have survived the impact. Then, in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Eric Blair, then a rather insipid writer serving as a soldier, got shot through the neck, but again, he also survived. Thus begins the story of how each man, in their inimitable styles, created a cry for freedom that still resonates with us today.
This book sets out with great gusto how the war progressed for the two people, how the stories unfolded as each pursued their chosen paths. Churchill’s ministrations during the lengthy fight against Fascism, Totalitarianism and Communism are legendary, but even so, this book tells us rather well how his mind was set firmly for freedom. George Orwell of course later produced his books 1984 and Animal Farm, amidst others of the same ilk.
The war itself was there for all to see as it happened, the clamping down of the totalitarian regimes in many countries, the subduing of conquered peoples everywhere as the frontline expanded. Churchill shouted this laudable reason for the freeing of these same people at any opportunity. One person stated that debating with Winston Churchill was akin to debating with a brass band. A fascinating look at how Churchill clicked is spelled out well in this book, opening up and revealing his love for the Americans. They also fell prey to his charm and exuberance, so together the ‘freedom’ banner was carried aloft.
George Orwell on the other hand used his wordsmithing skills superbly well in the book 1984. He uses the chief lead man, Winston Smith, as an idealist who tries hard to break from Big Brother, the governing factor in Oceania, a fictitious post-war nation. A hard and ruthless task for anyone it seems. A brief synopsis of 1984 is included within this book to help the reader better understand the principles of why Orwell wrote it. His second book, Animal Farm (a superb animated cartoon film is available), is an excellent look at how farmyard animals take over control of the farm with the simple expedient of making their lives better by hard work and sweat. It does not take long before some notice the rulers, the pigs, getting fatter as they themselves starve. It reads as a parody on the Eastern Bloc and post-war politics, and again, a superb synopsis is included here.
Altogether this book is superbly well written by Thomas E. Ricks, himself a noted author with other books to his credit. After reading it, I considered our own lives somewhat and how lucky we really are in the great scheme of things.
Reg Seward 4/2
Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 9780715652374 hbk Jun 2017
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