Review: Julia by Sandra Newman

Title: Julia

Author: Sandra Newman

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Granta Publications

The Blurb

Julia is a bold feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four that goes beyond Winston Smith’s story to finally reveal what life in Oceania was like for women.

London, chief city of Airstrip One, the third most populous province of Oceania. It’s 1984 and Julia Worthing works as a mechanic fixing the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth. Under the ideology of IngSoc and the rule of the Party and its leader Big Brother, Julia is a model citizen – cheerfully cynical, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She routinely breaks the rules but also collaborates with the regime whenever necessary. Everyone likes Julia. A diligent member of the Junior Anti-Sex League (though she is secretly promiscuous) she knows how to survive in a world of constant surveillance, Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink, child spies and the black markets of the prole neighbourhoods. She’s very good at staying alive.

But Julia becomes intrigued by a colleague from the Records Department – a mid-level worker of the Outer Party called Winston Smith – when she sees him locking eyes with a superior from the Inner Party at the Two Minutes Hate. And when one day, finding herself walking toward Winston, she impulsively hands him a note – a potentially suicidal gesture – she comes to realise that she’s losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.

Seventy-five years after Orwell finished writing his iconic novel, Sandra Newman has tackled the world of Big Brother in a truly convincing way, offering a dramatically different, feminist narrative that is true to and stands alongside the original. For the millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, here, finally, is a provocative, vital and utterly satisfying companion novel.

The Review 

Often, with memorable works of literature, it is our tertiary characters that have more interesting stories to tell. Julia from 1984 is one of those characters. Sandra Newman has decided to tell this story in her novel Julia. 

Like in 1984, Julie works for the Ministry of Truth and she wears her anti-sex sash but behind the dystopian rules we find out what Julia really thinks and how she is surviving living in this nightmarish society.

Told with a feminist slant, we see how women fare in male dominated societies and it is hard not to draw comparisons to real life. 

I really enjoyed this re-telling and wish more authors would pluck characters from novels and tell their side of things. 

Julia by Sandra Newman is available now. 

For more information regarding Granta Publications (@GrantaBooks) please visit www.granta.com.

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