I'm a singing songwriting postie living in Yorkshire. Sometimes I like to be challenged by a book, and sometimes I just want to lose myself.
I had a vague idea what this book was about - a middle class George Orwell goes 'Up North' to see how the working classes live - but I wasn't expecting it to be such a personally touching story. My family are from West Yorkshire and, as far back as we can go, we have been miners, living in the small mining communities that are described in The Road To Wigan Pier. Infact, my Grandad started down the pit in 1937 - as a 15 year old boy, the year this book was published - and the descriptions of the lives and homes of the mining families really hit home for me. The visceral account of how the miners would have to crawl through miles of dark and dusty tunnels before they even reached the coal face - and then do their 7 hours of difficult and dangerous graft before making the return trip - made my knees and back ache in sympathy for my young Grandad; no doubt it would have been my lot had I been born 50 years earlier.
Orwell's writing is superb, and this first half of the book flew by, but I wasn't expecting the sudden shift into polemic that takes up the second half and I kinda lost the flow for a while, but it turned out to be a very interesting insight into that strange period - just before WWII - when Fascism, Socialism and Capitalism were fighting for dominance. And, interestingly, many of his arguments about what was wrong in society rang true for our own times: unemployment, housing shortages, the poor eating junk food, and the onslaught of crass media, cheap clothes and technological toys that distracted the masses from engaging in meaningful debate or action.
So overall this was an extremely interesting read - if not an entertaining one - and I would thoroughly recommend it.
So, who does this Jesus fella think he is? I’d never bought the whole middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road pacifist guru-magician image that was thrust down our throats at school; I couldn’t quite see how that ancient Jewish peacenik could’ve inspired billions of people across thousands of years and cultures to such heights of beauty and horror. But, the Jesus portrayed in this book is one I like! A complex and charismatic Angry Young Man filled to the brim-stone with revolutionary zeal, with a talent for whipping up a crowd with his rhetoric and sleight-of-hand - this is someone worth reading about. Picture Jesus as a Jewish Nationalist Socialist (oh, the irony …) taking on The Roman Man with his mob of illiterate, fundamentalist peasants - it’s quite an image. And then throw him into the wonderfully described world of spirits, magic, gods, and the starkly brutal and bloody politics of Imperial Rome, and you’ve got one helluva story! That that Jesus was swept aside for early Christian PR reasons is a tragedy we may never recover from ...I like and respect Jesus of Nazareth much more than Jesus the Christ, and the Son of Man has a lot more to offer us than the Son of God does. An excellent and thought-provoking book - Amen!
This is a fantastic book that puts some much needed perspective on the Europe we find ourselves living with at the turn of the 21st century. It filled in many of the gaps that lay in my ignorance of our continent, and opened my eyes - and mind - to many things of which I simply was not aware. Evocatively written, this is historical story telling at its best, and should be read by everyone with an interest in recent history.