Orwell's Roses | Granta

  • Published: 21/10/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783785452
  • Granta Books
  • 320 pages

Orwell’s Roses

Rebecca Solnit

Roses, pleasure and politics: a fresh take on Orwell as an avid gardener, whose political writing was grounded in his passion for the natural world.

‘I loved this book… An exhilarating romp through Orwell’s life and times’ Margaret Atwood


‘Expansive and thought-provoking’ Independent

Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening – George Orwell

Inspired by her encounter with the surviving roses that Orwell is said to have planted in his cottage in Hertfordshire, Rebecca Solnit explores how his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power.

Following his journey from the coal mines of England to taking up arms in the Spanish Civil War; from his prescient critique of Stalin to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism, Solnit finds a more hopeful Orwell, whose love of nature pulses through his work and actions. And in her dialogue with the author, she makes fascinating forays into colonial legacies in the flower garden, discovers photographer Tina Modotti’s roses, reveals Stalin’s obsession with growing lemons in impossibly cold conditions, and exposes the brutal rose industry in Colombia.

A fresh reading of a towering figure of the 20th century which finds solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today, Orwell’s Roses is a remarkable reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance.

‘Luminous… It is efflorescent, a study that seeds and blooms, propagates thoughts, and tends to historical associations’ New Statesman

‘A genuinely extraordinary mind, whose curiosity, intelligence and willingness to learn seem unbounded’ Irish Times

I loved this book, and so will many... an exhilarating romp through Orwell's life and times and also through the life and times of roses

Margaret Atwood

This book is brilliant because it is true, and because it rescues Orwell from a kind of dourness and seriousness, and gives him back his humanity and yes, his Englishness.

James Rebanks, author of English Pastoral and The Shepherd's Life

I so loved this book. It unfolds like the petals of a rose - the political rose, the personal rose - and enacts its subject in the ethics of its beauty and the grace of its resistance

Jay Griffiths, author of Why Rebel

The Author

Rebecca Solnit is author of, among other books, Call Them By Their True Names, The Mother of All Questions, Men Explain Things to Me, Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise Built in Hell. A contributing editor to Harper’s, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.

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