The central schtick of this book is a cliché brilliantly delivered. Take a side-character from a beloved book and retell the story through their eyes.
I only have hazy memories of reading 1984 - where Julia is little more than a femme fatale. This book is an explicit and visceral journey through Julia's life in Airstrip One. We see how, from her point of view, Winston Smith is little more than a pathetic dreamer. His childish fantasies of toppling Big Bother are the last gasp of a snivelling coward. His love nothing but selfishness.
It isn't a radical reworking of 1984 - the themes about totalitarianism are mostly the same - but it is a brilliantly fresh perspective. Feminism wasn't even a subtext in the original whereas this brings it right to the surface. The impact of IngSoc on the psychosexual wellbeing of its subjects is laid bare.
I think it can be enjoyed without having previously read 1984. The original is so influential that you're likely to have absorbed most of it through cultural osmosis. It is a disturbing book - full of violence and pain - but I devoured it eagerly. The ending is far superior to the original.
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- ISBN: 9781783789153