Book Review: Animal Farm –George Orwell

(Following review has been selected as best review of the month by Book Club, DWIT)

The book looked innocent enough. It was red in color with the title and the author’s name written in capital letters and had a white-sh pig’s picture on it. A red colored book with a pig’s silhouette is harmless! I know not to judge a book by its cover. And maybe I didn’t. Then what must have caused me to be think that the book was a child’s story that surely must be at least loosely based on “Old Mc Donald” who “had a farm”?  The title of course. The title written in bold, black letters. “Animal Farm”, just another animal story in which animals talk and sing and make merry (like The Town Musicians of Bremen). I was right of course. It is a story about animals that talk and sing and make merry but it turned out to be a story about so much more than that.

Animal farm starts simply. The animals revolt and chase the humans out of the farm. Then they run the farm themselves. The animals too start simply. They write their rules on a wall. They learn how to use human tools. They divide the workload and the farm produce. Most importantly, they take an immense pride in being the only farm run by animals. From there, the plot takes a path that is both interesting enough to make you want to turn to the next page again and again and depressing enough to make you regret turning to the next page again and again.

The story is predictable. Everything about the book is predictable. And to make things easier, you get these hints right in your face about what is going to happen next. After reading a few pages you can easily guess how the book is going to progress. After reading a few chapters, you can guess what the next chapter will hold. And your guesses are mostly spot on. That’s how predictable the book is. Needlessly to say, there is no twist in the story (unless you miss a hint that is staring right at you).

The story is fiction. And like so many other fictions there are moments that are too bizarre. Animals reading and writing, using weapons, designing tools, talking to humans etc. seems a bit over-done initially but the story pulls you in so cunningly that by the end of it, you accept everything (even when the animals walk on two legs).

The characters are diverse. Each character couldn’t be more unique. The author has imagined every possible trait and given it to the characters so that they could be as diverse as human themselves. Each important character is an animal (horses, cats, dogs, pigs, donkeys etc.) while the humans are given side roles.  There are characters that are hard-working and those that are capable of using brilliant excuses to get out of work. There are intelligent characters that can teach themselves to read and write. There are animals that are too stupid to learn the letter ‘A’. There are brave characters and cowardly ones. There is even a character that is unhappy with the rebellion. But most importantly, there are characters that learn to be witty and manipulative and characters that remain meek and trusting.

The book is easy to understand. The places and the situations are described in such a way that a person can conjure a mental image of the scenes at once. The story progresses smoothly. It sticks to the main theme and there are no unnecessary side plots. True, the story ends predictably. But the final scene and the final dialogue ends the book in the most brilliant way possible.

‘Animal Farm’ is great book. It’s not a book I can say I like. The book at times makes me question the possibility of equality and good governance. The book is honest but brutally so. It is certainly no fairy-tale despite the fact that the characters behave like humans. But I did like reading the book. The book is a great page turner. The characters are hard to imagine but they are relatable. It is hard to imagine animals singing a rebellion song but you can understand why the animals sing it. After reading the book, I couldn’t form a decisive statement about the book and after thinking a lot about the book, I still can’t. So, I leave it up to you. After all, ‘Animal Farm’ is one of those books that you just have to read once in your lifetime.