This novel by George Orwell dates back to the 30s when Burma was part of British India and the British Empire. John Flory is the central character, a man formed by his role in the Raj but detached from the colonial society he is semi-detached from. The club plays an important role since it is where the British gather to be apart from the ‘natives’ they despise. Flory finds himself out of sympathy with the prevailing mood; he actually maintains a friendship with a local doctor.
The novel is based on George Orwell’s experiences of Burma from the 1920s. When published the Empire was still intact even if it was nearing its end and there were many who saw this as ‘letting the side down’.
Flory finds himself isolated over the issue of whether or not locals should be allowed membership of the club. He has the doctor in mind as the best person to be the first new member, a view not shared by the others who see this as a lowering of standards.
When the orphaned niece of a fellow club member arrives in Burma, Flory is forced to confront the perception others have of him. As he tries to gain her attention, he has to assess the importance to him of his place among the Europeans.
Themes of racism, imperialism, identity and Empire are all covered in a novel that, considered in the context of its time, is a brave one. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?