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The Road to Wigan Pier

Written by: George Orwell
Narrated by: Jeremy Northam
Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A graphic and biting polemic that still holds a fierce political relevance and impact despite being written over half a century ago. First published in 1937 it charts George Orwell's observations of working-class life during the 1930s in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire. His depictions of social injustice and rising unemployment, the dangerous working conditions in the mines amid general squalor and hunger also bring together many of the ideas explored in his later works and novels.

©2012 Canongate Books (P)2012 George Orwell

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeremy Kean
  • 16-12-18

Censored. This is Orwell, remember?

A number of words were bleeped. I can't tell you how aggravating it is to purchase a book as an adult, and have someone choose which words I ought to hear. Wonderful book overall. Orwell deserves his full credit. The narrator sounded excellent to. But hearing that bleep made my blood boil.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-02-20

A classic

As relevant today as it was 80 years ago. A must read for anyone interested in the history and politics of the last century.

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  • Humphrey D. Lena
  • 28-01-20

Well read and informative

Great perspective on mining, socialism, communism, and fascism. You would never think how much something as simple as canned food could play an enormous role in society. The reader put great emotion into the story and made me feel like he was the actual author at these locations and in that period of time.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-01-19

A great look into the year 1936

A book about the working class life in 1936 and also about the political climate of the time.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-12-18

Very pertinent message in today’s political landscape

This book was a very interesting read - the first part was an excellent ethnography of coal miners in the UK - followed by a very well thought out argument for moderate socialist policy - rather than the misguided identity politics we see today. George Orwell remains one of my favorite writers of all time.

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  • Koot Kotze
  • 06-04-18

As insightful as ever

Listen to it at 2.5x speed. Interesting to read it with the knowledge of hindsight.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-06-17

Class a pathogen

"You can sympathize with a murderer, a sodomite, but bot if his breath stinks." Great insight on the class system.

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  • J Gillan
  • 16-12-18

Interesting book. Disappointing censorship.

The book is very interesting if a bit of a slow starter. Great insight in to past English working class living conditions. Some words were bleeped out, which is obviously an issue with audible. There should be an option to turn off bleeping.

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • M
  • 15-10-12

Road to Wigan Pier

I had a vague idea what this book was about - a middle class George Orwell goes 'Up North' to see how the working classes live - but I wasn't expecting it to be such a personally touching story. My family are from West Yorkshire and, as far back as we can go, we have been miners, living in the small mining communities that are described in The Road To Wigan Pier. Infact, my Grandad started down the pit in 1937 - as a 15 year old boy, the year this book was published - and the descriptions of the lives and homes of the mining families really hit home for me. The visceral account of how the miners would have to crawl through miles of dark and dusty tunnels before they even reached the coal face - and then do their 7 hours of difficult and dangerous graft before making the return trip - made my knees and back ache in sympathy for my young Grandad; no doubt it would have been my lot had I been born 50 years earlier.

Orwell's writing is superb, and this first half of the book flew by, but I wasn't expecting the sudden shift into polemic that takes up the second half and I kinda lost the flow for a while, but it turned out to be a very interesting insight into that strange period - just before WWII - when Fascism, Socialism and Capitalism were fighting for dominance. And, interestingly, many of his arguments about what was wrong in society rang true for our own times: unemployment, housing shortages, the poor eating junk food, and the onslaught of crass media, cheap clothes and technological toys that distracted the masses from engaging in meaningful debate or action.

So overall this was an extremely interesting read - if not an entertaining one - and I would thoroughly recommend it.

48 people found this helpful

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  • Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
  • 13-09-13

Life-changing book that's perfect for audio

Finished listening to an Audible download of Road To Wigan Pier today and it is a truly astounding book. I think, had I encountered it 80 years ago, it would have been life-changing. Plus there is still so much that is completely relevant now and it is interesting to see how much of Orwell's future prognosis has come to pass. I am sure that much of my enjoyment of the work was due to Jeremy's excellent and impassioned narration. The second part moves from social observation to political ideology and, had I been just reading, I possibly would have got lost and given up. However, having the audio made it feel as though the different ideas and perspectives were being explained just to me(!) and I now have a far better understanding of the politics of the time.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Si
  • 27-09-18

Falls flat

The initial third, in which the author documents the trials of working class families in the late 30's is incisive, thought-provoking, shocking and often humorous. Unfortunately, this quickly degenerates into a political monologue and, worse, interminable lists of costings for every single aspect of human existence, from rent and travel to coal and vegetables. These statistics would be soporific even if the account was contemporary, but of course these expenses are all in old money and cannot be translated meaningfully for current comparison. After half an hour solid of thirty shillings and tuppences and two shillings and sixpences and five and ninepence ha'pennies I could take no more and gave up.

And one more thing. Why in God's name are certain words bleeped out? Is it some kind of ironic comment that a book by George Orwell should be censored?

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ash
  • 14-03-13

A great book, made better by a great reading.

I've been listening to audiobooks for years now and can comfortably say that this is a real gem of a reading. Orwell's writing is compelling and the subject matter has a particular meaning for me since both of my grandfathers were miners in the era Orwell describes so the first half of the book is just brilliant.



What really makes this shine is that Jeremy Northam really picks up and runs with Orwell's passion in not only the first part of the book but also the second part: a political essay which I suspect could seem dull and ranty in the hands of a lesser reader. It's so good I shall almost certainly listen to this audiobook again, something I this far have never felt the need to do.

15 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Nakul
  • 27-10-12

Indispensable

A classic of polemical journalism. Jeremy Northam captures Orwell's tone, both narrative and polemical, perfectly. I listened to it on a train ride from Glasgow to London and the time simply flew by.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Lord Peridot
  • 04-01-14

Orwell at his best

Where does The Road to Wigan Pier rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Fascinating combination of personal experience, political comment and a masterful appeal to hope. One of the last of Orwells books which I have encountered personally. But one of the best.


ps. Would be nice if Audible stopped treating its customers like idiots and let us write reviews that are free form. All these questions make reviews harder to read and less reliable as the format tends to obscure the priorities of the reviewer, which is critical in assessing their likely relevance.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Stephen
  • 05-06-12

Socialism Views Made Clear

"Our only hope is in the Prols". Orwell has this message whispered through this work. Again he experiences privation to gain true understanding of the society he is to write about. He speaks realistically about the working class; about what their immediate needs are and also what holds them back. This includes their own mind forged manacles. If the reader is looking for some light reading, keep looking. This is a serious and brilliant work by perhaps the greatest writer of the 20th century.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Hittowl
  • 07-04-13

A book of two halves

This book is split is effectively split into two havles. The first half explains the life and hardships involved in working in the coal mines duing the early 1930s. The second half is more of a general discourse about poverty, going in to matters such as nutrition, average earnings etc. It is the first half that is the more interesting listen, and whilst the second half is of some interest it became quite hard work after a while.

9 people found this helpful

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  • boudica
  • 17-08-18

Censored? A classic?

Please do not alter classic English Literature by bleeping out the swear word. It is an insult to any person with half a brain. Now I need to find a print copy to get the true context of a passage. Not impressed.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Simon Hart
  • 04-06-18

A brilliantly read version

This book may not be for everybody; I grew up in Wigan so the book is filled with things that I have seen and remember. Orwell also rattles off a lot of statistics and facts in the book for long sections, but these things aside it's still a masterpiece. Jeremy Northam's reading is absolutely first rate; in fact, I can even imagine that I am listening to Orwell himself speaking. When I first read the book some years ago I found it very hard going, but Jeremy Northam brings it to life.

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  • Richard Woodburn
  • 29-10-19

Required Reading

I was required to read Animal Farm and 1984 at high school, I really wish that this book had also been required. Subject matter still 100% relevant today. I wish I had read sooner. Thank you to Jordan Peterson for the recommendation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Memphis
  • 23-09-18

How much has changed without much changing at all

Orwell could be describing my law lecturer of today when he speaks of the left leaning self professed virtuous socialist who knows nothing of the class in which he proclaims to care about. Well written and eye opening, leaving you with the idea that that socialism had a potential before being dragged into a polarising fight by marxism.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adam Takesce
  • 27-03-20

Coal Mining Hell!

Beautifully read with well-acted voice characterisations by Mr Northam. Clever and descriptive prose by Mr Orwell. A frightening first-hand account of harsh reality of life as a coal miner in Britain in the early-mid 20th Century. Time has shown the final third of the book to be looking through somewhat rose coloured glasses.

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  • BV
  • 20-09-19

its orwell

solid vocal performance, sounds like being talked to by Mr Orwell. don't know why you'd remove the profanity though

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  • Prue
  • 08-04-19

Great listen

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the manner in which it’s written.
My only criticism is the censoring of some language.

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  • Shane Connor
  • 12-03-19

Fascinating and still relevant.

This is one of Orwell's lesser-known works, but still one of his better ones, Taking us through the squalid living and working conditions of 1930s Northern miners.

A tract on socialism.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-01-19

great book

very interesting and well read with a interesting contrast to today's modern world that's worth understanding where we have come from

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  • John
  • 09-01-19

Thinking man’s book

Must read for all Left and Right leaning political views. Read it then try and challenge it

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-12-18

As relevant today..

An powerful engaging book. Relevant today is it was at the time in the 1930’s, perhaps even more so. I love a book that can subtly hold a mirror to the reader, not cause anguish, but to allow one to check in every so often.
Wonderfully read - highly recommend.