A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

I had been dying to read this book when I realised it was a classic that I hadn’t picked up. I thought to myself that it was only 150 pages in length and I would have it done in no time, I was definitely wrong. This book may be short but it is a jam-packed plot and takes time for appreciation and understanding.

A Clockwork Orange looks at Alex and his gang of friends who terrorise the neighbourhood and local citizens, taking what they want and doing what they want. In a bid to reform Alex he is captured by authorities in a hope to change his personality and character. With a futuristic view of violence and technology, this book is at times disturbing and thought-provoking asking the reader at what price is freedom and free will, whilst questioning the powers of good and evil.

I struggled an awful lot with this book and originally when I read the blurb of the book I thought it was something I wouldn’t enjoy. The violence alone was a massive sign that I would find this book difficult to read as it’s just not something I like to see in  movies or read about in books. I sometimes find written violence worse as the descriptions are usually long and hard to avoid compared to visual violence on a screen that I can avoid just from covering my face with my hand.

This book not only was difficult to digest with regards to the plot but the language was hard to follow at times too. Burgess practically invented his own slang that required a glossary to follow along with the dialogue and conversations. At first when I started the book it took me a good 10-20 pages to fully understand what was happening because the slang was so thick but after a while I got used to it and could easily follow the plot. This use of language really interested me and after a bit of research I found that Burgess based this slang on biblical, Shakespearian and Russian language.

The language in this book is philosophical on many levels and definitely stands out for its written standard. I also found the writing to be lyrical in places and any many chapters contained beautiful lines such as “Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?” or “We can destroy what we have written but we cannot unwrite it.”

I know this book is considered to be a classic or one of the best books of the past century however I just didn’t enjoy it as much as others. In saying that I can reflect on it and appreciate the book for what it is. I wonder what way it was received when it was first published as this book must have been a shock in 1962 given that I find it shocking in 2016. It’s a dystopian setting, a linguistic adventure, an authoritarian explorations and a unimaginably violent read so it definitely dips into areas unknown in that time and era. Although I didn’t enjoy this book wholeheartedly I do appreciate it and gave it a 3 out of 5 stars on goodreads. I would recommend it and I do believe it will be a hit or a miss read for many others too.


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