BOOK REVIEW: Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

Sparked by her unexpected encounter with the surviving roses he planted in 1936, Solnit’s account of this understudied aspect of Orwell’s life explores his writing and his actions—from going deep into the coal mines of England, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, critiquing Stalin when much of the international left still supported him (and then critiquing that left), to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism. Through Solnit’s celebrated ability to draw unexpected connections, readers encounter the photographer Tina Modotti’s roses and her Stalinism, Stalin’s obsession with forcing lemons to grow in impossibly cold conditions, Orwell’s slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica, Jamaica Kincaid’s critique of colonialism and imperialism in the flower garden, and the brutal rose industry in Colombia that supplies the American market. The book draws to a close with a rereading of Nineteen Eighty-Four that completes her portrait of a more hopeful Orwell, as well as a reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance.

My Thoughts:

A fascinating bibliomemoir that explores the life and works of George Orwell through his love of roses. Rebecca Solnit’s canvas is huge. Orwell’s political acuity and his love of this most romantic of flowers is a launchpad for her to consider the art and life of the early 20th century photographer and activist Tina Modotti, Stalin’s determination to force lemons to grow in the snow, writer Jamaica Kincaid’s scathing critiques of colonialism, and the awful Columbian rose factories that send millions of identical red rosebuds to the American market every year. Written with such fierce intelligence & clarity – loved it! 

Kate Forsyth
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