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Publisher's Summary

Orwell's own experiences inspire this semi-autobiographical novel about a man living in Paris in the early 1930s without a penny. The narrator's poverty brings him into contact with strange incidents and characters, which he manages to chronicle with great sensitivity and graphic power. The latter half of the book takes the English narrator to his home city, London, where the world of poverty is different in externals only.

A socialist who believed that the lower classes were the wellspring of world reform, Orwell actually went to live among them in England and on the continent. His novel draws on his experiences of this world, from the bottom of the echelon in the kitchens of posh French restaurants to the free lodging houses, tramps, and street people of London. In the tales of both cities, we learn some sobering truths about poverty and society.

©1962 S. M. Pitt-Rivers (P)1993 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Genuine, unexaggerated, and intelligent." - ( New Republic)"The most lucid portrait of poverty in the English language...combines good narrative with wit, humor, and honest realism." ( The Nation)"Excellent...a model of the realistic approach." ( New York Times Book Review)

What members say

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 05-21-12

The King of Boldness, Clearness, and Audacity

George Orwell is one of those writers who you THINK you know when you read his couple, well known, books in your adolescence. Later, when older, you discover that 9/10 of his writing was submerged and hidden from your younger, more innocent self. The more of Orwell's nonfiction I read, the more I love his boldness, clearness, and audacity. Orwell's confidence in his writing is apparent even in his earlier works. Down and Out doesn't make me want to tramp, but it did teach me a couple tricks just incase.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • GK
  • 08-30-12

Colorful and desperate. Humouros and tragic.

Would you listen to Down and Out in Paris and London again? Why?

Yes. I have read the book a few times and I like the first part read in a french accent from french characters. It really brings the characters to life.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters in the Hotels and the French Quarter the protagonist lives and works among. Madame F the landlord, Boris's optimism and friendship to the protagonist, Charlie's drunken speeches, Rocolle the cat eating miser, the snobby waiters that enjoy spending their customer's money on their food and drink by proxy, the lazy Siberian waiter that insults his boss in order to get fired half way thru the day at every job because they have to pay him him for the entire day (he has so much cheek), Mario (George's boss) that is more like a machine at work than a man, but fair minded. The height of meal rushes everyone is "swearing oaths" to one another, floors covered with garbage, employees stealing food and liquor--so well described how a hotel restaurant is ran. England: The Spike where the spinster in blue is giving the homeless men tea and a bun and she asks one man when was the last time he talked to his Lord Jesus. The man was over come with shame. A red nosed man jumped up and cried out the Lords name to draw attention away from the embarrassed man. The red nosed man had this act down, likely from prison. The spinster won't let the men leave until hymns are sung. The red nose man passes out the hymn books like from a deck of cards and spouts off the names of lucky hands only the men can hear as they each get a book--bringing something bearable to this contempt every christian charity makes these men go thru to get a few pieces of bread and a cup of tea. Reminds me of the old saying "sing for your supper." The filthy and crowded lodges that make the insect infested hotel rooms in Paris seem like luxury.

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

He was a bit stuffy as the protagonist. However, he did the correct accents very well.

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

The unemployed clerk kneeling in a salvation army, praying to God with such desperation for a job. The first Spike making all of the men undress and stand in a line, exposed, in shame, malnourished, sickly, some elderly wearing trusses, while a med student inspected them indifferently for infectious diseases like small pox and nothing being done to care for their ailments.

Any additional comments?

One can't go wrong with anything written by Orwell. A heavy french accent speaking english and speaking french either adds to this book for some, or takes away for some. I suggest reading the book first, before listening to this audio book to get the most enjoyment.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Little known Orwell title is worth the listen.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

interesting sociological study of life amoong the poor in France and England.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Orwell. author and hero.

Which character ??? as performed by Frederick Davidson ??? was your favorite?

Orwell.

If you could take any character from Down and Out in Paris and London out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Orwell. He is cultured and erudite, even in poverty.

Any additional comments?

I highly reccomend this book. It is dated, I am sure, as even poverty does not stand still. Even so, it is a remarkable first-hand study of life among the poor in France and England in the 1930s.

Orwell describes his struggles in Paris, as his money runs out and pawn shops are his only resource. Later, he has jobs in restaurants, both posh and less so, and tells of his empployers abuse, disdain and, in some cases, outright robbery. He tells of drunken nights among the working poor, who have no other source of entertainment.

The story moves to London, where an expected job is delayed a month. Orwell spends that month mostly as a tramp, among tramps, and discovers dignity, honor (I should say

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The world of the past sounds horrible

The poverty described in this book seems pretty unimaginable today in the Western world. It's interesting to consider how social welfare states have changed between then and now.

Additionally, I've listened to several books by this reader, Frederick Davidson. I think this was my favorite.

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  • Mark
  • Madison, WI, United States
  • 09-02-17

Surprisingly Engaging

There were enough interesting stories and vignettes to make this read like a novel. Interspersed are Orwell's observations - which are concise and thoughtful. I happen to like the narrator. As such, it was an enjoyable listen for me.

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Went Downhill and Crashed

It started out very interesting then unfortunately grew boring, bloated, and lost its steam. I wasn't fond of a Brit narrating but he did fine considering, but was still hard on an American ear.

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  • Rob
  • Neshanic Station, NJ, United States
  • 05-11-16

An overall good experience.

Worthwhile. Interesting stories and a glimpse into the life of tramps. Well read with character voices and accents.

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Brilliant and dark

I listened to this brilliant little book two years ago and it still haunts me. It is stark and well-written, a little jewel.
I recommend it highly if you want something gritty and real but not modern.

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Hilariously enlightening

Very interesting story on living on the poverty line in the 1920s. Davidson's accents are brilliant.

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Good journal

Parts were thought provoking, but I mostly found myself disengaged from the story. I often listen to it at night to help me fall asleep.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful