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Summary

Gordon Comstock loathes dull, middle-class respectability and worship of money. He gives up a 'good job' in advertising to work part-time in a bookshop, giving him more time to write. But he slides instead into a self-induced poverty that destroys his creativity and his spirit. Only Rosemary, ever-faithful Rosemary, has the strength to challenge his commitment to his chosen way of life. Through the character of Gordon Comstock, Orwell reveals his own disaffection with the society he once himself renounced.

©2011 CSA Word (P)2011 CSA Word

What listeners say about Keep the Aspidistra Flying

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A world away but relevant

The account of genteel poverty in 1930s London in one sense seems a world away, yet in another feels strangely relevant. Gordon, high-minded, infuriating but also somehow admirable, rejects the 'money world' and pays the consequences. The ending is part redemptive and part depressing, as the money god gets his way by working on Gordon's better nature.

9 people found this helpful

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Unfairly neglected gem of a master novella!

What a finely sarcastic language and thought, what a fight human vs material world vision

8 people found this helpful

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Classic Orwell, Classic Grant, Classic Cock-Up

A fairly simple story one man's deliberate self-destruction told in typical Orwell fashion. Not his best by a long shot but utterly believable and human nonetheless. What really brings it to life is the performance of Richard E. Grant. With hints of Withnail he subtly draws you into the dingy world of Gordon Comstock.
This recording could have been one of the best I've listened to.

Could have been.

If it were not for the fact that crass and sloppy production has let it down. It sounds as though someone has recorded this audiobook from a CD set, which they have, in fact, done so. How do we know this? Because Mr Grant frequently says, "End of CD x", "Start of CD x". Somewhere around the end of chapter 2 there is a fault with the CD and it skips in several places. There are no gaps between chapters; Richard finishes the final sentence of a chapter and then, without seemingly pausing for breath, blurts out "Chapter x" and forges on. It is all most disconcerting and spoils what should be a wonderful listening experience.

I have contacted Audible about the shockingly poor production quality but have yet to receive a reply. Disappointing.

11 people found this helpful

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George Orwell is a brilliant writer

Who was your favorite character and why?

Rosemary. She was so enormously selfless and patient in a genuine loving way.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The ending.

Any additional comments?

George Orwell portrayed Gordon Comstock as the most loathsome, weak-willed, self-pitying, selfish, moaning man I have ever encountered, yet by the end of the story Orwell creates a character that can do 'the right thing' and instantly becomes far more likeable. Brilliant prose.

5 people found this helpful

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Richard E. Is Excellent G. Orwell is similarly so.

Captivating with an exceptional turn of phrase. Humorous, challenging, very good. Very entertaining. Harks back to an interesting epoch in time.

4 people found this helpful

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Withnail fans - this is a must listen

What did you like most about Keep the Aspidistra Flying?

I picked this up in an audible sale and I am so glad I did. Firstly this has outstripped 1984 as my favorite Orwell novel. The writing is sharp, gives a great flavour for the period but as is always the case with a true classic - the themes and characters transcend the original era.But great books do not always make great audio books. Richard E Grant's performance is one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The talk of booze soaked poverty and frustrated creativity is pure Withnail and I (or Withnail is pure Orwell, you choose). As a long time fan of that film I was delighted by his reading.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Gordon Comstock, the money obsessed creative snob whose every decision seems to bring him closure to the edge of self destruction. Thoroughly hateful and utterly sympathetic.

What does Richard E. Grant bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Grant brings every ounce of the drunken narcissistic creative kamikaze passion that made Withnail and I unforgettable to a generation of cinema goers.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Gordon's idiotic series of bad judgement calls when he finally gets paid for a writing assignment. Hearing him plunge into a self destructive frenzy as his loved ones look on and suffer is incredibly sad.

Any additional comments?

This is really good, you should give it a try!

14 people found this helpful

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Wonderful rendition...

Comstock is every writer and what every writer hates and fears to be...Orwell's book has never been recognised for the comic Classic it is.

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

As with any audio recording of a book, the choice of narrator is extremely important. I've been waiting for this particular book to come out in audio format for quite some time now (this is my favouritee Orwell novel), and it was worth the wait. The narrator does a brilliant job. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording.

15 people found this helpful

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Hard going at times but a satisfying ending

The protagonist is not a particularly charming or likeable character. It is hard to see how he has any friends at all. The love interest in the story plays a key role in shaping his character but it is hard to see what she sees in him. I like listening to this story in short bursts as too much can be quite draining. I like the philosophical reasoning and the relationship between money and doing something meaningful with your life.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic narration

Richard E. Grant's reading makes a good story great. This is another brilliant book from Orwell. I read it's one of his least favourites. It I really think it's brilliant. A very thoughtful study of the constantly opposed artistic values of "selling out" or remaining a starving artist and staying true to one's artform. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Kudos once again to Grant for the delivery.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Timothy
  • 25-09-11

Gordon's Grey World is Colored with Grant

Where does Keep the Aspidistra Flying rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

At times certain wonderful books, by towering authors and read by notable narrators often end up with a rather dull effect. For 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying', narrated by the immensely talented Richard E. Grant, this is not the case. The atmosphere of Orwell's terse satire is fully developed in this dramatic reading by Grant, who manages to deliver character after character without loosing any of the pacing allowing the social and political underscore of the book to be fully experienced by the listener.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Keep the Aspidistra Flying?

Of the many painfully satirical moments in the performance to look out for is the exchange between Gordon Comstock and the french waiter at the country pub.- enjoy.

8 people found this helpful

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  • laurel
  • 25-08-12

fantastically sarcastic performance

What a pleasure to listen to Richard Grant capture every nuance and drop of sarcasm in Orwell's great prose masterpiece, The book feels very modern in sensibility; the narrator is exceptionally brilliant and funny. It was really a delight.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Sarah R. Jacobs
  • 16-04-16

I wish Richard E. Grant'd record more audiobooks

On the extremely slim chance that he or his agent or someone responsible for casting audiobook narrators is reading this, please cajole Mr. Grant to record more audiobooks.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ian
  • 24-05-14

Great performance. Loathsome character

Gordon Comstock may just be the least appealing character in any book I have ever read. Whining, self pitying, grasping (of everything but money) he is almost completely devoid of human sympathy. At one point I nearly abandoned the book because he is such an unsympathetic persona.

But it is an Orwell. You can't give up on an Orwell. It's the law. And Gordon does finally redeem himself for the most human of all reasons. If you love Orwell you need to work your way through all of his work. If you don't love Orwell you need to work your way through all of his work so that you eventually will. This is certainly no "Animal Farm" and "Coming up for Air" is a friendlier read (next please Audible) but it certainly repays the listening time.

Richard E Grant's performance is excellent. Just the right amount of self important sneer in his voice and just the right tone of undeserved and unappreciated privilege in his delivery. All round a very good audiobook.

5 people found this helpful

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  • john in RI
  • 14-02-14

You can't kill an aspidistra

What did you love best about Keep the Aspidistra Flying?

The scene where Gordon finally sells a poem and ends up blowing the money on booze and tarts. You can feel his hangover when he wakes up in jail. Gives me a headache just thinking about it.

What did you like best about this story?

Gordon's tenacity, although like everyone he ends up with his own aspidistra.

What does Richard E. Grant bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

If you have seen any of his movies you know what an amazing actor he is, in fact he starred in the film adaptation of the book. No one could have done a better job than Mr. Grant. Check out Withnail & I. "We've gone on holiday by mistake..."

If you could take any character from Keep the Aspidistra Flying out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Ravelston because he would pay.

Any additional comments?

Orwell said he wrote the book because he needed money. Quite ironic.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Josh g
  • 14-02-16

Deeply profound

This book depicts the painful struggle of consenting to sell oneself to promote the aims of a corporation or institution. Much of the book is painful to read because our protagonist makes horrible mistakes repeatedly. Gordon needlessly hurts people who are close to him, both because he lacks money, and much more painfully, because he is constantly obsessed with his lack of money and his feelings of inadequacy that derive from his poverty. However, the book is not long, and left me feeling incredibly satisfied when I reached the end. The books ethical/moral implications are hard to pin down. Gordon finally finds stability and some peace by giving in to his hatred of money, and the reader feels very happy with his decision. Yet all this satisfaction we feel is from Gordon renouncing all he believes in, something that is epitomized by his powerful desire for an Aspidistra plant in his window so all the neighbors would see, even though Gordon spent the last 30 years of his life despising Aspidistras.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rochelle
  • 27-01-15

Genius

This is a perfect work by Orwell. The best novel I have read by him so far. The performance by Richard E Grant could not be better - he is the perfect casting for Gordon Comstock.

Be aware that this copy has a sound fault in chapter 7. There is about 40 seconds of skipping that make that tony section of the book inaudible.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Satyasheel Suresh Chaudhari
  • 14-10-20

A wonderful book

OK, before I write anything else, I must say this isn't like 1984 or Animal Farm, but it definitely is political fiction. The book revolves around Gordon who is a poet and rebel of capitalism. He wants to rebel against capitalism by working a low paying job and write great poems. It's a great read! I enjoyed the narrator too with the English accents!

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  • Linda Willardsdaughter
  • 25-01-20

Loved the narration; hated the technical glitches

Richard E. Grant narrated this book wonderfully. After just a few minutes I looked up all the other books that he narrated, since he had, in that short time, become a favorite. But technically speaking, this was the worst audible.com book I have ever had: "End of CD 3," "Beginning of CD 4," no break whatsoever between the last word of a chapeter and the announcement of the next chapter, almost as if they were one word. "Swordchapter 3" or "novelschapter 7' and so forth. Still, for all that I will probably listen again. It's a memorable story, I like to fall asleep to a book, and Richard E. Grant is a perfect narrator to read you to sleep like a kind and trustworthy uncle.

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  • Bibliobabbler
  • 17-11-19

Grim but honestly realistic novel superbly read

Gordon Comstock, an impoverished, angry literary slacker, fights against the "money world," his only weapons being his slim output of poetry and his rage (largely inner). Gordon is so wretchedly unhappy that the reader wonders that he doesn't cut his own throat. He is so enraged that money controls the world and all aspects of life that he cannot bring himself to accept a fairly well paying job even though it could be his for the asking. Anyone who knows about George Orwell and his opinions and principles can easily discern that Gordon is a stand-in for him. Though Orwell's point in the novel is sound and reasonable, Gordon's negativity and gloom are so abysmally deep and as to verge on being a one-note samba and therefore off-putting. But at the end, the other side of Orwell emerges -- the Orwell who has a an abiding affection and admiration for ordinary English men and women -- breaks through, and life eases for Gordon and his long-suffering girlfriend Rosemary.