Eric is Awake
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
Shortly after midnight on the 21st January 1950, the man known to his readers as George Orwell and to his new bride Sonia, as Eric Arthur Blair, breathes his last in a small side ward of the University College Hospital. Beside his bed, his bags are packed for a trip to Switzerland. He is alone and afraid. Shortly after midnight on the 21st January 20--, in a country with 4.2 million CCTV devices - one for every 14 people in the country, a security camera captures a homeless tramp with a high forehead and thin moustache, dying of hypothermia in an alley beside an Islington pub on a snowy winter night. As his dying breath vaporizes in the freezing air, he grows cold. The warm vapour of his final exhalation travels upwards to dissipate in the atmosphere, but instead, coalesces and descends again to the cold blue lips of the man lying in the alley. He takes a breath and the tramp's body warms as a new occupant moves in. Eric is awake.
This is a clever, complex and fascinating work. I've had it sitting on my Kindle for a while now, waiting to find the time to read it - I finally read the whole thing in a week while on holiday in Corfu - mainly because I just couldn't STOP reading it!
If ever the time was ripe to disinter George Orwell and bring him back to have a look at England as it is today (or as it might be in the near future), this is that time. Dom Shaw's novel takes us on a frightening journey into our own existence with one of our country's great journalists, while at the same time taking us back with Orwell to memories of his painful, personal past. The voice of Eric Blair, or George Orwell, is recreated with absolute ringing authenticity, and I felt at times as if I were reading some forgotten Orwell document that had been discovered after his death.
It's hard to give a flavour of the book in such a small space, but the ringing anger that echoes throughout is what gives the book its power. Here's an example: At a point in Orwell's odyssey through modern Britain, he stumbles upon a political meeting in a community centre, and here he utters some blistering and caustic truths about our world and our society: "No one voted for the seemingly perpetual wars in China, Iran or Afghanistan. No one voted to bail out the financiers and enrich the dividend takers... No one voted for means testing in the National Health Service...No one voted for low-grade proletarian exam factories in place of schools. No one voted to make protest of any kind mostly illegal...No one voted for the database state...for celebrity culture instead of a genuine news agenda... It is you, the power seekers, who lulled us into a dreamless sleep and stole our souls while we slumbered."
It's hard to believe that this is Dom Shaw's first novel. It is an absolutely assured work, written with heart-breaking intensity. I recommend it unreservedly. Amazon Username: Gustave Flaubert