Down and Out in Paris and London

Down and Out in Paris and London

by George Orwell
Publisher: Mariner Books
Trade Paperback, 228 pages
List Price: $14.00 Sale Price: $11.90

Down and Out in Paris and London has the appearance of fiction. And, after reading it, if you've ever eaten in a restaurant you'll wish it was. But in The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell assures us that everything in the earlier book really happened.

Orwell endured death threats, irate cooks, filth, verbal abuse, and arrest. He was forced to take a bath in a room with fifty smelly naked men and only two bathtubs. He watched French cooks spit in the soup and lick gravy off of steaks to test the flavor. He bummed around with Irish tramps. He got sick multiple times, and spent days in cockroach-infested beds.

He also offers surprising advice, like telling readers not to feel sorry for waiters. According to Orwell, all waiters are snobs at heart, and when they're serving you they aren't thinking about what a jerk you are. What they're really thinking is that they can't wait to have enough money to be in your position and act the way you're acting.

Of course, waiters in 1930s Paris are probably different from waiters now, but for all those who think the old days were a golden period far superior to our own, Down and Out in Paris and London will dispel all such notions.

If there's anything this book proves (besides our deepest suspicions that restaurants and hotels are gross), it's that humanity is the same now as it always has been: mean, dirty, selfish, and foul.

But it doesn't stop there. Orwell loved humanity, and while he had no illusions about the universal ability to make ourselves and others miserable, he did want injustice to be turned to justice, and wrongs turned to rights. This is a memoir, but more than a memoir—it's an exposé, a call to awareness, and a sad ballad for the men and women on the outs.

George Orwell is one of the best writers England has ever produced, and his brilliant prose and subtle humor make this a book you can't put down, despite the often harrowing content. Orwell wanted his British peers and colleagues to understand the plight of the working man, and it's a lesson we could well stand to learn as well.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating
FLAWS: Some language and sexual references
Summary: Already a professional writer, George Orwell went slumming in the two great Western European cities and exposes cafe kitchens and the hobo life.

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