OK, so I got way behind on reviewing my top 12 favourite books of all time.
This was supposed to be a once-per-month thing, but after I got done professing my undying love for Stephen King’s IT back in April, I got a little-distracted writing about other things and, thus, I’m behind schedule.
Which, if I’m being honest about it, is nothing new for me.
After I didn’t read Animal Farm, George Orwell’s political masterpiece, until at least sixty years after it was first published.
In my defence, I wasn’t actually alive for over half of those years. Once I did arrive in this world -fittingly, in 1984- it still took me a long time before I finally got round to borrowing my sister’s copy of what Fantasy Book Review calls “one of the greatest socio-political works of all time.”
This is despite the fact that I was already a big fan of Orwell’s other books; that dystopia classic named after the year, and The Road to Wigan Pier, which actually made me cry.
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad
So yeah, it took a while to get round to Animal Farm, but when I did, I was absolutely hooked.
Like an extended version of one of Aesop’s darkest fables, the book (which is technically sub-titled A Fairy Tale) is a simple yet harrowing story of freedom gone awry and the corruption of power, all told through the eyes of farmyard animals.
Like the best of Aesop’s fables, the animals are chosen for their most prominent and stereotypical characteristics.
Thus we have the greedy pigs, the sheep who follow blindly (Four Legs Good. Two Legs Bad), and the incredibly strong and work-happy horse.
Speaking of the horse -Boxer- it’s this particular character that stands out as not only the most tragic figure in this book but in possibly any book ever.
I mean that in all sincerity.
Over the years, I’ve read about all kinds of things happening to all kinds of characters in all kinds of books, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that stopped me in my tracks and made me feel my emotions quite so powerful as the first time I read about the fate of Boxer the Horse.
All Animals Are Equal…
The story of Boxer isn’t the only reason I love Animal Farm.
Orwell builds his characters so well that I simply could not help but be gripped by their story right from the beginning. I found myself so caught up in cheering on the heroes and praying the villains get their comeuppance that I completely forgot that this is a fairy tale about talking farm animals.
That’s some serious suspension-of-belief, and I don’t think there was anyone better at creating that than George Orwell.
Much as he did with 1984, the writer paints a world that is so vivid, so unquestionably real that it ceases to be read as fiction and more a matter-of-fact report about the world we live in today.
The scariest part?
All the issues Orwell raises in this absolute masterpiece are as real, and as relevant, today as they were when they were first written seventy years ago.
Animal Farm by George Orwell is the third entry in my list of my Top 12 All Time Favourite books.
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