Orwell's Roses

Orwell's Roses

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'I loved this book... An exhilarating romp through Orwell's life and times' Margaret Atwood

'Expansive and thought-provoking' Independent

Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening - George Orwell

Inspired by her encounter with the surviving roses that Orwell is said to have planted in his cottage in Hertfordshire, Rebecca Solnit explores how his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power.

Following his journey from the coal mines of England to taking up arms in the Spanish Civil War; from his prescient critique of Stalin to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism, Solnit finds a more hopeful Orwell, whose love of nature pulses through his work and actions. And in her dialogue with the author, she makes fascinating forays into colonial legacies in the flower garden, discovers photographer Tina Modotti's roses, reveals Stalin's obsession with growing lemons in impossibly cold conditions, and exposes the brutal rose industry in Colombia.

A fresh reading of a towering figure of the 20th century which finds solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today, Orwell's Roses is a remarkable reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance.

'Luminous...It is efflorescent, a study that seeds and blooms, propagates thoughts, and tends to historical associations' New Statesman

'A genuinely extraordinary mind, whose curiosity, intelligence and willingness to learn seem unbounded' Irish Times
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 19mm | 226g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1783785527
  • 9781783785520
  • 1,542

Review quote

I loved this book, and so will many... an exhilarating romp through Orwell's life and times and also through the life and times of roses -- Margaret Atwood This book is brilliant because it is true, and because it rescues Orwell from a kind of dourness and seriousness, and gives him back his humanity and yes, his Englishness. -- James Rebanks, author of English Pastoral and The Shepherd's Life I so loved this book. It unfolds like the petals of a rose - the political rose, the personal rose - and enacts its subject in the ethics of its beauty and the grace of its resistance -- Jay Griffiths, author of Why Rebel We all know what Orwell hated but Solnit pays attention to what he loved. Orwell's Roses is an ingeniously fresh and unpredictable take on his life and times, and the values he held dear -- Dorian Lynskey There is nothing more political than a garden, and Rebecca Solnit brings Orwell's life and writing vividly alive through his quiet determination to love the surface of the earth. Orwell's Roses shows how intimately aesthetics is intertwined with ethics, and in doing so, Solnit has given us a truly beautiful book -- Alex Christofi, author of Dostoevsky in Love This an enchanting book, as powerful in its arguments as it is enjoyable to read. From a surprising close-up of George Orwell planting three Woolworth roses, Solnit pans to a bracing new vista of the man and his fierce political aesthetic, taking in the injustices of the rose industry and lying Soviet science as she goes. Brilliant -- Lisa Appignanesi This elegant rambling rose of a book muses on Orwell with all Rebecca Solnit's luminous intelligence and trademark optimism. If "Orwellian" has become synonymous with darkness and oppression, she opens up his life affirming love of gardening, of wild nature and life's physical pleasure, his antidote to the grim puritanism of ideologues -- Polly Toynbee A tribute by one fine essayist of the political left to another of an earlier generation... the great pleasure of reading [Solnit] is spending time with her mind, its digressions and juxtapositions, its unexpected connections. Only a few contemporary writers have the ability to start almost anywhere and lead the reader on paths that, while apparently meandering, compel unfailingly and feel, by the end, cosmically connected . .. The book provides a captivating account of Orwell as gardener, lover, parent, and endlessly curious thinker -- Claire Messud * Harper's Magazine * The green-fingered and the politically committed alike will want to curl up with this book as the gardening year draws to a close and we reflect on a time during which nature has been more of a solace than usual. * Observer * Elegantly light-footed and freewheeling... a marvellously bracing ramble that passes through a variety of intellectual terrain and physical landscapes * Daily Telegraph * Expansive and thought-provoking... In the hands of a skilled novelist or essayist like Solnit, biography becomes something else entirely * Independent * Idiosyncratic, immensely original work * i paper * Luminous ... part biography, part memoir, a historical and cultural analysis and a work of literary criticism, Solnit's book is a love letter in prose to those roses, to Orwell and to the enduring relevance of his ethical sensibility. It is efflorescent, a study that seeds and blooms, propagates thoughts, and tends to historical associations * New Statesman * The book itself, like petals of a rose unfurling, conveys hope for a better future... a genuinely exceptional mind, whose curiosity, intelligence and willingness to learn seem unbounded * Irish Times * An absorbing read for those with interests in politics and gardening alike * Sunday Telegraph * An entertaining ramble through the author's life and Solnit's consciousness... this rhizomatic exercise yields great blooms * Big Issue * Solnit makes us rethink "Orwellian" to mean not just what he was against but what he was for - nature. Her brilliant essays give colour back to an author we often think of as grey * Daily Telegraph * This hybrid volume blossoms with... insights, non sequiturs and epiphanies -- Margaret Drabble * TLS * A pleasing meditation on the small pleasures and intricate beauties of nature, and a book to see you through to spring -- Books of the year * The Times and Sunday Times * Wonderful and moving... Fine and thoughtful * Spectator *
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About Rebecca Solnit

REBECCA SOLNIT is the author of more than twenty books, including Recollections of My Non-Existence, which was longlisted for the 2021 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and shortlisted for the 2021 James Tait Black Award, The Faraway Nearby, Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, River of Shadows and A Paradise Built in Hell. She is also the author of Men Explain Things to Me and many essays on feminism, activism, social change, hope, and the climate crisis. A contributing editor to Harper's, she writes regularly for the Guardian, the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.
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