I really enjoy reading essays, and when I saw this on The Book Depository whilst placing my post-Christmas order, I just had to purchase it. It is more of a pamphlet than a book, really, with visible staples in its spine and standing at just 56 pages long. It makes a nice little gift, and is sure to be a welcome addition to every bookshelf.
Such, Such Were the Joys was first published in 1947, and has just been reissued by Penguin. It encompasses some of Orwell’s early memories from his childhood and schooldays. It begins with a pivotal event in his childhood: ‘Soon after I arrived at St Cyprian’s (not immediately, but after a week or two, just when I seemed to be settling into the routine of school life) I began wetting my bed. I was now aged eight, so that this was a reversion to a habit which I must have grown out of at least four years earlier’. He goes on to describe such things as his schoolmasters persecuting him for his family’s lack of wealth, and for the fact that he was merely a ‘scholarship boy’.
The childish anecdotes which follow are all rather endearing, and one gets the impression from the start that Orwell – or, rather, Eric Arthur Blair, as he was then known – was quite a lovely child. The retrospective viewpoint works so well throughout. Orwell is able to attribute more adult characteristics to explain his childhood behaviour, most of which he was quite unaware of at the time of the events.
The entirety of Such, Such Were the Joys is so well written. It has been split into many short essays throughout to make a collection of sorts, all of which have the central theme of childhood memories and recollections. It is short enough to be read in a single sitting, and small enough to be put into a pocket or the tiniest of handbags, making it ideal literature to take on train journeys and the like. Let us hope that Penguin release more of these essay-style pamphlets in due course. I for one will happily collect them all.