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Summary

An autobiographical study, Down and Out in Paris and London follows Orwell as he tramps around both Paris and London. Pawning his belongings to buy food, unemployment, drinking heavily and jostling for a place in homeless hostels are but a few of the experiences related with candour and insight in this unabridged exclusive audiobook. Orwell was arguably one of the first 'gonzo' journalists.

In this unabridged, enlightening and often shocking expose of life on the streets of two of Europe's most romanticised and celebrated cities, Orwell describes in detail the day-to-day life of a 'down-and-out', which involves hunger, filth, derision and often prejudice and violence. Alcohol is also a staple distraction on both sides of the channel for the destitute, and Orwell's comments on issues such as the emasculation of a man when he becomes a tramp (women see him as 'less than' a man and will not interact with him) are truly fascinating.

©1933 George Orwell Estate (P)2009 CSA Word

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Superb

Where does Down and Out in Paris and London rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The journalism, courage and compassion is unparalleled. A fantastic example to our current crop of list compilers and press release johnnies who call themselves members of that profession.

What other book might you compare Down and Out in Paris and London to, and why?

Nick Davies - Dark Heart. Going into the slimy underbelly of society and able to empathise with the people and write with compassion about their lives.

Which character – as performed by Jeremy Northam – was your favourite?

N/A

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I did!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Thought-provoking and riveting storytelling

Who would have thought that an endless stream of stories about the awfulness of living on the edge of dire poverty could so gripping, but in the hands of this master storyteller it is. Orwell coped philosophically with the degradation and squalor of his experiences of trying to live on the pittances he earned from long hours of working as a drudge in Paris kitchens. His revelations about how, even in the most prestigious establishments, standards of hygiene and food quality were abysmal reminded me of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential which similarly lifts the lid on modern kitchens.

During his time in Paris, Orwell met many extraordinary characters and their life stories enliven the book as they revel in their tactics for survival and schemes for beating the system buoyed up by unrealistic optimism.

His experiences of travelling with tramps around London, after his return from Paris, are moving and a sad reflection of how some people can fall out of society and have to rely on grudging charity. The book concludes, like his later book The Road to Wigan Pier, with sensible suggestions as to how life could be made better for these indigents at no extra cost or even less cost to society.

The narrator is superb.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Deep insight

I was surprised at how deep an insight in to the mind of a person experiencing poverty this provided. I think this is a must read for anyone with preconceptions about homelessness and fascinating for anyone who considers themselves in tune with the social problems affecting many people in their home town's.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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The years changes but the times don't

A powerful read on how life for the down and out really was (is), a must read for all who are interested in social history, and remember about how if we don't learn for our history how it will repeat itself

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Stephen
  • Hitchin, United Kingdom
  • 18-05-12

Familiar Flavour

This was Eric Arthur Blairs first book. I had read Road to Wigan Pier previously. The books have a very similar style. The difference is in the depth of poverty Orwell describes. (specifically starving to death in Paris and as a tramp in England) He makes no attempt to convince you of the evil that poverty is or the misplaced justification which we use to treat the poor as deficient or sub-human.

It appears to me that Orwells political views were unformed at the time of this first book. Little political commentary exists. His writing is honest in his own view. His opinion that a man who had confessed to a double murder was a throughly decent chap, innocent and yet ironic.

If you would like to appreciate a new the rich lives we live. Read this book.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • 04-01-11

Excellent

A great combination of an excellent book read by a great narrator. I'd highly recommend this particular recording - very, very entertaining. The narration is brilliant.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Frazer
  • United Kingdom
  • 27-10-10

A worth-while listen

Before listening to ?Down & Out? I had already ready 1984 and Animal Farm of Orwell?s other works (both excellent). This book differs from them in that it is largely autobiographical, inter-dispersed with elements of social commentary for which all of Orwells? books are famous. This biographical nature does add a certain intrigue to the book and gives it a depth and validity that would otherwise be lacking. It is at times shocking, but also quite enlightening and at times heart-warming. However, one can?t help but have the feeling that he was merely a ?tourist? in this situation and that he could at any time have got himself out of it if he so chose. In this vein, I saw the book as verging on being condescending to the very people that it tries so hard to humanise for us. He points out that tramps are normal people in every sense, but are merely down on their luck. He also points out the total ineffectiveness of the state in dealing with these people. His aim throughout is to show that ?tramps? deserve respect and help, but it is difficult to escape the knowledge of who the author is and that he is in that situation largely out of choice and not really ?Down and Out?. I don?t want to imply that it is not a good book ? it is ? it?s just that I found it more of an ?outsiders? perspective. Still, worth a listen (especially if you are a fan of his other works).

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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On the gutter looking for stars

Published in 1933 it carries within itself some cultural differences that are starting and some truth that are universal, it paints a picture of a period in Europe that also illuminates a not so distant future of war foretold by the language used by Orwell himself.
If you have ever worked in a hotel or a restaurant this book is a must, many things have changed especially in hygiene, but others are still in the culture of these modern establishments and are described with a flair and truthfulness that is unparalleled in other books about the subject. The humour in this book was something I did not expect but it was very much appreciated.
Also what I did not expect was the use of the word jew with such disdain and hate it surprised me because I had never encountered it on his books before, also it shows that Europe was on a path that Germany brought into reality, It reinforced my feeling that it is hard to escape culture and fashion even for great minds, and this makes this book even more revealing of our contemporary weaknesses, it also illustrate that we need NOT censor any work because its revelations are warnings.
The descriptions and characters are better than most novels, the stagnation on desperation is palpable and real but so is the humanity of all he meets.
A brilliant work of reportage and life; an incredible immersion in the places no one wants to explore, but we all need to know.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

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An insightful story in poverty and culture.

An excellent book which depicts the first hand experience of living under poverty in Paris and London. The author debunks the myths of sorrounding poverty, and and gives the reader a deep analysis of of the pain and sufferring which it entails. A depressing but necessary read.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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A well read bemusing gritty English classic.

Orwell takes you on a eloquent and fittingly tedious slog through mid 20th Century homelessness in Paris and London. His experience is seen through working class eyes but spoken with aristocratic reflex. The characters are alive yet typical - English classic.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul C Morris
  • 23-07-10

A Superb Writer

Orwell specialises in writing reportage, which gives details of his life experiences. His writing style is direct and as clear as looking through a pane of glass. His experiences working in hotels in London and Paris are at times grim, but his sense of humour shines through. Not as well known as Animal Farm and 1984 but still a tour de force.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ross Engers
  • 01-05-16

Great listen! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great listen! Thoroughly enjoyed it. The Audio book does this classic book justice. Easy to follow along.

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  • Chrissie
  • 02-09-14

Report, Memoir or Novel?

OK, here is why I did not like this book:

This is touted as a book of fiction with strong autobiographical elements. So if Orwell is presenting a book of fiction I want characters who engage me. I want a bit of a story. I want good descriptive writing. This novel fails on these points. It reads as a report. It is instead the direct retelling of Orwell’s experiences when he was down and out trying to survive in the slums first of Paris and then later in London. Probably the 1920s.. He had no money – at times, not even a few centimes. No job, no home, no clothes, no sleep – only hunger and cold and bugs. I am telling you his situation was m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! He delivers a minute by minute account of his days as a dishwasher and as a homeless bum when he didn’t even have dishwashing. I do sympathize with him and his comrades’ plight, but if Orwell wanted to present this as a novel then the characters should draw me in. This is not the nature of the book; it is a report of what he saw and experienced.

So, if this is a report then I must judge how that report is delivered. I disliked elements of this report:
-the author’s anti-Semitic views
-the concluding analysis of how the homeless’ situation should be improved
-and in a report one need not include numerous verbatim emotional outbursts filled with expletives.

I do believe Orwell’s experiences could have been turned into a novel about the life of people working in restaurants, cooks and waiters and yes the dishwashers too. The homeless and the foreign exiles. It could have made a marvelous novel, but what is delivered here is half novel and half memoir, neither one nor the other.

Jeremy Northam narrated the audiobook I listened to. Set in the slums of both London and Paris there are numerous foreign exiles and thus numerous dialects. The only dialects that felt genuine were the British ones. The Russian dialect was ridiculously fake. The French was off too, and half of the book is set in Paris!

Really, I did want to give this at least two stars because the plight of the lowest of low in the slums of Paris and London is clearly depicted, but my honest feeling toward this book is one of dislike. So one star it is.

Read Homage to Catalonia or Animal Farm instead. They are better.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful