The Girl from the Fiction Department

April 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm (JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

A Portrait of Sonia Orwell by Hilary Spurling

This was a lovely piece of literary history documenting not just the life of Sonia Orwell, a famous and well-known editor on her own as well as the second wife of George Orwell, but that of many of the literary giants she befriended. The book is short, easy, and a fascinating glimpse into the hearts of so many European authors and artists for anyone who enjoys well-written literature and the bohemian lifestyle in which many of them lived.

I was baffled and surprised by Sonia’s many love affairs, saddened and elated by Sonia and George’s short-lived union, and angered by the notion that other biographers have so readily misunderstood her. I found Sonia interesting and bold, yet I also found myself so relieved to have not lived her life. She truly must have been someone to behold, respect, and possibly hate at some moments – though I think I might have liked her most of the time.

I loved that Sonia’s biography was so linked to her role in Orwell’s writing the character of Julia in 1984, the girl from the fiction department. Its such a quick and concise biography that manages to branch out and cover personalities of so many of those of Orwell’s time, I believe if I were a high school English teacher I would either require the reading of The Girl from the Fiction Department directly after assigning 1984 (or at least offering it up as an extra credit assignment).

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