Thursday 9 November 2023

Julia - Sandra Newman

London, chief city of Airstrip One, the third most populous province of Oceania. It's 1984 and Julia Worthing works as a mechanic fixing the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth. Under the ideology of IngSoc and the rule of the Party and its leader Big Brother, Julia is a model citizen - cheerfully cynical, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She knows how to survive in a world of constant surveillance, Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink, child spies and the black markets of the prole neighbourhoods. She's very good at staying alive.

But Julia becomes intrigued by a colleague from the Records Department - a mid-level worker of the Outer Party called Winston Smith, she comes to realise that she's losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.

Seventy-five years after Orwell finished writing his iconic novel, Sandra Newman has tackled the world of Big Brother in a truly convincing way, offering a dramatically different, feminist narrative that is true to and stands alongside the original. For the millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, here, finally, is a provocative, vital and utterly satisfying companion novel.

What did I think?

It has been many years since I last read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four but Sandra Newman took me right back to Oceania in her stunning feminist retelling of Orwell's classic.

In Julia, Sandra Newman tells Julia's story from her point of view as she interacts with Winston Smith and various other characters.  I recognised various scenes from the original story and felt the whole retelling was beautifully done.  I think I need to go back and read Nineteen Eighty-Four again to fully appreciate Sandra Newman's craft though.

At times shocking, Julia touches on a number of disturbing subjects that are sometimes difficult to read and the book has many trigger warnings.  Nothing feels gratuitous though and it's all necessary to fully immerse the reader in Oceania of 1984.

Intelligent, thought-provoking and powerful, Julia is an absolute must-read for anyone who has read and enjoyed Nineteen Eighty-Four.  I plan to read both books again and I think Julia will be even better the second time around. 

I received a gifted hardback as part of the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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