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.