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“As for St Cyprian’s, for years I loathed its very name so deeply that I could not view it with enough detachment to see the significance of the things that happened to me there. In a way it is only within the last decade that I have really thought over my schooldays, vividly though their memory has always haunted me.”   George Orwell

I am writing this post for the purely selfish reason of encouraging readers to buy as many copies of a superb new graphic novel as possible to ensure more volumes are published.

Such, Such Were the Joys, based on George Orwell’s posthumous, libellous essay about his experiences as a scholarship boy, is a masterclass in adaptation by Sean Michael Wilson and Jamie Huxtable.

Schooling

Orwell’s education, between the ages of 8 and 13, was almost entirely focused on “cramming” in an effort to win a scholarship for entry into a prestigious public school, such as Eton or Harrow. 

The enigmatic, bitterly ironic title of the essay was appropriated from The Echoing Green – one of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence – which Orwell’s mother had read to him as a boy:

Old John, with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say,
“Such, such were the joys
When we all – girls and boys —
In our youth-time were seen
On the echoing Green.

The world of the essay, reflecting Orwell’s experiences of the horrors of boarding school as the world lurched towards World War One, is rendered completely successfully by Wilson’s adapted words and Huxtable‘s illustrations.

What struck me immediately was how completely immersed I was while reading ‘the comic’. The book really gels stylistically as a holistic work of art.

It will be very accessible in this format for students studying Orwell.

Volumes II & III

Back to why I have written this post.

If sales are sufficient to “please the publisher” a second volume, incorporating Orwell’s tramping experiences from his early essays, Hop-picking, Clink, The Spike and Common Lodging Houses will be published. Even better, a third book, using source material from Orwell’s colonial experiences – such as Shooting an Elephant, A Hanging and Marrakech – is probable.

Both of these volumes would employ the same stunning orange/black/white design of the first book which is a homage to the iconic, old Penguin editions and will make for a nice set of three illustrated books.

Your copy

This link will find an online bookshop near you with copies of the graphic novel in stock. You may wish to purchase an ebook or paperback direct from Pluto Press. If impatient, grab one immediately for your Kindle (or at least check out the sample).

Anyone buying a copy using this link will be pleased to know that Jaime, the illustrator, promises it will “contain a dedication to you or a loved one together with a unique Orwell sketch”.

I am happy with mine!

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