There are a handful of classics which I love, which I have been too scared to review so far; What on earth have I got to contribute to the thousands of reviews/ critiques which already exist about Austen, Orwell, or Tolkien. But when I find myself in a conversation about book recommendations, what I actually find myself talking about isn’t the academic credentials of an author, it is about how their books made me feel. And that is something that I have quite a bit to say about.
For example, Animal Farm by George Orwell is a Classic and viewed by some who don’t view themselves as ‘readers’ to be unattainable. It is actually one of the books that I recommend specifically to people who don’t consider themselves as ‘readers’ for a handful of reasons.
Firstly, it is an easy read – It is written with a straight childishness which is very simple to follow, there are no big words and none of the concepts it discusses are complicated. It is a book about equality, which is actually a pretty straightforward concept when you think about it.
Secondly, it’s interesting and at times amusing in a cynical sort of way. Benjamin the Goat is a particular source of amusement for me, and the story is written in a way that makes you wonder what is coming next.
Thirdly, you don’t need to know anything about history or politics to keep track of what is happening in front of you. When I originally read this book it was picked out at my first ever book club off the BBC Top 100 reads, and at 19 I read it at face value – It was a story about a bunch of animals who decided to run their own farm, got it.
It wasn’t until I sat down at the next book club meeting to talk about the story that the penny dropped. I was suddenly overwhelmed by people comparing this character and that character to prominent figures in the russian revolution – I still have no idea who is meant to be who, and the more I read the story the more I decided that actually it didn’t matter than much to me.
Animal Farm is a story which starts off about equality and freedom, and ultimately becomes about double-crossing and gaslighting. The way that the story develops is persuasive and cleverly written in such a way as to be perfectly straightforward. It’s difficult to explain without this post becoming an outright spoiler, but it is one which I revisit when I am looking for an adult childrens book (Yes I made that label up, no it doesn’t mean the normal fairytale type). If history is important so that we don’t make the same mistakes again, then this book could be considered a summary of the lessons learnt, without needing the intricate detail of the original plot.
I strongly recommend this book as one to read at some point in your life – It is short, not sweet and to the point. Please enjoy.