English Assignments

Book Review
‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ by George Orwell.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell is a classic dystopian novel, which is eerily similar to the state of modern society. Written by a liberal socialist soon after the end of the second world war, 1984 describes the future in a totalitarian state where thoughts and actions are minutely monitored and controlled. Orwell gives us a drab, empty, over-politicized world. With the passionate individualism of the central character, revolt is a very real danger. Every thought must be hidden, for fear of being convicted of ‘thoughtcrime'.

The novel focuses on Winston Smith, an ‘ordinary’ man who lives in Oceania; a future state where the ruling authoritarian political party controls everything. Winston is a lower member of the party, and works in the Ministry of Truth. He changes historical information to portray the government and Big Brother (the head leader) in a better light. He is basically in charge of the propaganda people read in the newspapers. Winston worries about the state, and he keeps a diary of his anti-government thoughts. This is highly dangerous seeing as everyone is watched twenty four seven but he figures that they’ll catch him eventually, they always do.

A large part of the book is taken up with a recitation of the Brotherhood's manifesto, which includes a number of social democratic ideas along with one of the most powerful renunciations of fascist thought ever written. Of course, O'Brien is really a spy for the government, and he gave the manifesto to Winston as a test of his loyalty. I found this to be an extremely interesting aspect of the novel and the suspense made me want to keep reading.

The striking aspect of this novel is certainly the messages it offers to us and the ideologies and theories he presents us with. He is depending on the lower class, the ‘proles’ to rebel and says this: ‘Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious’. I think this ideology can be applied to any rebellion in history whereby a nation or population becomes aware of their disadvantage in life and rises against the oppressor. I find these theories to be truly fascinating and made it a very intriguing novel, leaving me with questions about political authoritarianism and just how far it could possibly go. In this sense the novel was very thought provoking and did require full attention to detail in order to follow the events which I enjoy in a novel.

However the vast majority of the novel was descriptions and building the cultural context which can be interesting however if nothing much happens in said cultural context then the process is pointless. It can be a bit dull in parts due to a different style of writing than I’m used to whereby the focus is on the setting rather than the events. The lack of dialogue is also a disappointment as I always find that dialogue keeps the reader interested.

The fact the history was constantly being rewritten was the most astonishing of all. The fact that if there is no record of something happening other than in your memory, no matter how definite, you cannot prove that it happened. If everyone else around you denies something happening, you can start to doubt yourself. It was amazing how this whole nation of people had no concept of what happened or when it happened.

In general I would give this book a six out of ten for its great theories that it presented but was slightly disappointed by lack of action in the beginning and middle of the book. I probably would not recommend it to people my age (teenagers) who are not interested in history but perhaps someone with a better knowledge and appreciation for literature than I would enjoy it more so.

Book Review: My Sister's Keeper: Jodi Picoult

I recently read 'My sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult. What I knew about this book before I read it was that it was about a young girl with leukemia. I found out that it was about so much more than that. This book is about Anna, who was brought into this world to save her sister. She was genetically altered so she would be a perfect match to donate blood and even organs for her sister. The book is told from multiple perspectives but it mostly follows the relationship between Anna and her sister. Her mother, Sara, tells us of the various operations Kate has had to have and the operations involved and how she suffered. Anna's suffering, in Sara's mind, is of little importance when it comes to saving Kate's life.

My opinion of Sara changed multiple times throughout the book. At times I hated her, for never considering how Anna felt or how things would affect her. I hated her for always making Kate the number one priority. However, this opinion was conflicted by the fact that her daughter's life was at risk and I know any mother would do anything to save their child's life. I think she was blinded by the fact that Kate was dying and although the operations were not life threatening for Anna, they could greatly decrease the quality of her life. Anna's father had more of a conscience towards Anna and took an interest in her, but when emergencies strike, it is difficult not to think of the child whose life is at risk.

When Kate enters the end stages of kidney failure, receiving one of Anna's kidneys is her only chance of a prolonged life. Anna refuses to donate. Knowing her parents won't listen to her protests, Anna approaches Campbell Alexander, a prominent lawyer with a service dog named Judge. She seeks medical emancipation,  where she can decide what she wants to do with her body and not what her parents think is best. However, sometimes parents do know best and this is constantly on her mind. Campbell agrees to work without charge because of the publicity the case will generate. However, Anna's determination wavers under intense pressure from her angry mother, who also happens to be a lawyer. When Sara turned on Anna for wanting the right to her own body, I really despised Sara. I thought that it was ridiculous to be fighting with one daughter about trying to save the other. Surely Sara, of all people, should know that life is too short for that. As you can see, at times this book frustrated me, but only because I didn't know who was right or wrong. Also, sometimes morals clashed with ethics. Of course everyone should have a right to their own body, but should we even question donation when it means saving your sister's life?

With regards the way the story was told, from different perspectives, at first I found it quite confusing but once I got into the story, I found it very interesting to see what each person in the family had to say about the court case and the events in the Fitzgerald household. For example, Campbell Alexander could come across as a selfish, bitter man, but when we hear things from his perspective, we see that he really cares about Anna, and I found it reassuring that he, at least, cared about her.

I don't usually cry at books but its very difficult not to get at least upset at this ending, and while I'm not going to give anything away, expect the unexpected. It taught me that life is too short for fighting and you never know what could happen next. I would highly recommend this book for anyone 13 years and older. I would give it an excellent ten out of ten as it kept my attention from start to finish and I really enjoyed it. It really tugs on your heart strings and its a book that will stay with me forever. I never reread books, but I would certainly read this one again as there is so much to it. Picoult really puts across the message that life is short, so don't take it for granted. I think we can all learn a thing or two from the story of Anna Fitzgerald.

By Lauren O'Reilly

Book Review: “Noughts and Crosses”, by Malorie Blackman.


Noughts and Crosses tells the story of Callum and Sephy, who live a world that is divided into first class citizens, (Crosses) and second-class citizens (Noughts). The novel has a double narrative, where the story alternates from Callum’s point of view.
This novel explores the issues of racism and prejudice. Blackman reflects into history to when African-Americans were technically free from slavery but were not granted basic human rights. However, she reverses it, where white people (noughts) are the second class citizens and work for the wealthy, black citizens (crosses). This is an interesting approach, which shows how race was not an issue, it is just the colour of our skin, and it was the prejudice of the people that was the issue.


Sephy and Callum have been friends since they were young; Callum's mum Meggie worked for Sephy's rich parents. Sephy’s father is a leading politician, with a racist mind-set. Although Sephy appeared to be living the high life, all was not well in the Hadley household.

Callum is one of the few Noughts to enrol at Sephy's school, which results in chaos when she chooses to sit at a table with Callum and the other noughts. This shows the However, when all of the Noughts are treated badly at school, Callum ponders whether or not to follow in his brother’s footsteps and join a corrupt resistance group and drop out of school. He loses faith in ever getting a good decent job even if he did have the qualifications. There is no hope for a nought in a world ruled by crosses. I find this moment a rather destitute conclusion for Callum to make, but maybe he was right, maybe he would have gotten his degree and became just another labourer, but I'm an absolute optimist so this disappointed me.

Meanwhile, Callum and Sephy’s childhood relationship turns to love for each other, which is completely forbidden in the world of the novel, and causes quite an uproar when people find out about them. 

The views of the author are quite clearly expressed in the novel. By switching the race towards which prejudice was aimed, she shows that everyone and anyone can be discriminated against, as African-Americans once were, for no reason at all.

I enjoyed this book to some extent because I usually enjoy books that are based on historical events; however this book was not one of my favourites and did not compare at all with the works of Ms Harper Lee. I found it slow moving and did not become too attached to the characters, probably because I kept dipping in and out of the book due to lack of interest. I am not daunted bu the width of a spine of a book however I like books that I can't put down and this was not one of them. This is just a personal opinion, and you may love it but due to a slow pace and a disappointing ending, I do not think I will read the rest of the trilogy.

There were some redeeming factors though:  the book did explore the tragedies of racism and prejudice and also the double narrative made the book more interesting as we got an insight into the two very contrasting lives.

I would recommend this book to the more patient readers and if you have an interest in books that refer to periods of history then go for it, however if you need a more fast paced, then this probably is not the book for you. I would give it a six out of ten.

Thanks for reading this post,

Hopefully next time I'm reviewing my response will be more positive, sorry about that.


“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong.” 
― Muhammad Ali

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