Book Review: Burmese Days by George Orwell

Burmese Days by George Orwell is a novel set in 1920’s Burma, where Orwell had spent five years as a police officer between 1922 and 1927. Flory is a timber merchant, a man with little backbone and a hideous birthmark. His only friend is Dr. Veraswami, a Burmese man who worships the superiority of the English. Spending the majority of his time in the bush, Flory is incredibly lonely in the rural Burmese town despite the presence of other expatriates around him. It is not until orphaned Elizabeth shows up to stay with her aunt and uncle do things begin to change, and Flory finds some optimism in the future.

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The plot was a lumbering elephant crossing vast sweeps of empty terrain, with unpredictable bends and turns breaking up an otherwise straight and mundane trail. The entire cast was a despicable lot, with only the Dr. Veraswami exhibiting any signs of likability.

The prose of the novel was well written, descriptive without being overly flowery. The color and vibrancy of Burma was tangible, I could easily envision myself there watching a native dance or waking up with the birds to an early morning sunrise. Themes of racism and Imperialism held a prominent place in the story, and Orwell’s disgust with British politics and willful ignorance of the time patent.As far as stories go this one is about the Idea, with Orwell demonstrating counter current ideals and insights. As much as I would like to consider our world past the intolerance and nationalism that were a hallmark of British colonialism, recent political events serve as a reminder why we need to continue reading such literature. 3 out of 5 stars for a book that challenges the mind without engaging the heart.

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