Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 24, 2012
I discovered this book listening to a BBC podcast titled "Great Lives." Orwell was the subject of the podcast, and the moderator commented that, in his (the moderator's) opinion, Burmese Days was Orwell's best book.I had read 1984 and Animal Farm--indeed, who hasn't? Neither of those famous short novels is anything like Burmese, which contains no element of fantasy; rather, it's a novel of humans, human failings, emotions, and romance.

Romance, sort of. Perhaps the most telling feature of the book (for me) is the main character, Flory, being infatuated with Elizabeth. Flory is intelligent and thoughtful. He regrets his life serving English interests in Burma. He sees, roughly in the 1920's, the narrow intelligence and prejudices of his fellow Europeans; he finds imperialism elements of shameful exploitation. Flory is unfulfilled, guilt-ridden, and lonely. Elizabeth, the niece of a fellow worker, visits after her parents die, and Flory thinks he is in love with her.

His love would not be remarkable, but for Elizabeth being cut from the same cloth as the fellow workers Flory has no respect for--if she isn't worse. She thinks the Burmese are sub-human; she has no interest in culture or art. Flory would have nothing to do with her (in my opinion) if he weren't lonely and miserable in Burma. The people and concepts Elizabeth recoils from are people and concepts that Flory has a keen interest in; indeed, an affection for.

Burmese was a fast read to the end--not a happy end, although I found the end happier than it would have been had Flory's conscious wishes been gratified--life happily ever after with that miserable excuse for a human, Elizabeth. She wound up better off than she deserved; Flory, far worse off.
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