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Publisher's 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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

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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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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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

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  • Kirstine
  • 09-15-17

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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Ron
  • 12-31-15

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 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Hilary
  • 11-05-17

A real insight

Everyone should read this book as a warning about life without a safety net.
Jeremy Northam's narration is superb his characterisation spot on.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Curly
  • 10-31-17

An important book

this book gives depth to Marxist theory better than dry dogma. I feel I understand what it must be like to suffer poverty in the prewar period

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lawrence C.
  • 10-31-17

Masterful story telling and narration .

Orwell’s story is a timeless one of society’s forgotten people . The story is Orwell’s real adventures living on the bread line in Paris and London .
The narration and voice acting is first class . The narrator is able to portray a variety of accents with ease without falling into stereotyping .
I would definitely recommend this title .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • ania
  • 10-12-17

Interesting story but

Interesting story but the narrator spoiled it a bit. It is hard to enjoy a book, any book where all the charactes, exept the narrator sound like annoying morrons. Especially irrytating in case of Russian characters. So overdone .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Boggy of Bucks
  • 10-09-17

Lessons from a different age, for this one

I had no expectations for this book, never having read it nor heard anything of it. It is, naturally, a tale of it’s time - full of the ignorant and bigoted language of a different era - but with an ageless quality nevertheless. For a person who has never experienced much misfortune in his life this book is a window into that world where catch 22s abound and the natural trajectory appears inevitably downwards.

There is something irresistible though about such escapism, regardless of the woeful experiences of the author.

The narrator was excellent.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • pixie
  • 10-08-17

powerful listen

I had forgotten just how amazing this book is, a real insight to the life of the 'not so well off . The story is superbly read and the detail of poverty told in a manner to easily understand as it is a first hand account. A must read classic!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • AllanJensen
  • 10-03-17

what a fantastic narrator !!!!!!! More from him !!

Orwell is such a prolific writer. Sad that 1984 is the most famous of his books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Patj
  • 09-29-17

Could be somewhere today.

Dated of course but sadly not so different from the present day. An interesting account.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Gaetano
  • 10-24-17

wasn't expecting much.

what a story, he really was a great writer.
really make see even today how little we know of the lives around us.