This novel was written in 1939 a few weeks before the start of WWII and was the first real success of Orwell’s career, surprising given he’d already written Down and Out in Paris and London, Burmese Days, and Homage to Catalonia by that time.
The story is about George Bowling, an insurance salesman, who has a great idea on the day he takes off work to get his new false teeth. With the money he’s recently won on a 33-1 horse in a race, he decides to revisit his youth and return to the village of Lower Binfield where he grew up.
This is in a bid to rekindle childhood memories and perhaps to go fishing for some enormous carp he remembers in an obscure pond. These memories and fish turn into rusted tin cans as the realities of modern Britain hit George hard and he realises you can never go back.
George is also worried about the war that’s coming and the world that will exist after this war is over, a precursor to what Orwell wrote about in 1984.
There are some great insights about the people on the Hesperides estate where George Bowling lives and remember this is 1939:
We’re all respectable householders – that’s to say Tories, yes-men, and bumsuckers.
Every one of those poor downtrodden bastards, sweating his guts out to pay twice the proper price for a brick doll’s house that’s called Belle Vue because there’s no view and the bell doesn’t ring.