The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover

An insightful but sometimes oversimplified look at the writing of 1984.

Book Review by Jonny Sweet | 06 Oct 2017
  • The Last Man in Europe
Book title: The Last Man in Europe
Author: Dennis Glover

A book about the writing of a book, The Last Man in Europe is an unorthodox form of historical fiction which concentrates upon the life of George Orwell and in particular, the arduous process of wrangling 1984 from his tuberculosis-ridden mind and body. The first two parts of the book deal with Orwell’s politically formative years in Barcelona, Paris and London, while the latter two recount his race against his own mortality in transcribing his nightmarish vision to paper.

Much of the book consists of placing several scenes from Orwell’s most famous works in context; Glover meticulously sows the seeds of inspiration for easily recognisable chapters from his fiction into concrete scenes from the man’s life. While this is artfully done on occasion, it can come off as pat and clumsily tackled. For example, doublespeak’s derivation is similarly over-simplistic and improbable.

Stylistically, Glover writes in a fluid, easily-digestible prose and fans of Orwell will undoubtedly enjoy raising the curtain to peek behind the scenes at the famous author’s life. However, it can be hard to escape the feeling that he’s merely piggybacking on Orwell’s incredible success and furthermore, it’s often difficult to distinguish where factual events end and fictional interpretation begin. If, as Orwell believed, history is a tale told by the victors, Glover is winning all the way to the bank. 

Out now, published by Black Inc, RRP £10.99