A Life In Letters, By George Orwell

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The Independent Culture

Deadpan and droll, cantankerous and kind, the voice of Orwell's letters never sounds very far from the tone of his books in this rich collection of correspondence - beautifully edited and annotated by Peter Davison.

Whether as questing literary newcomer, dauntless journalistic witness or world-renowned prophet, the writer always manages to blend grand designs with a relish for quarrels and a dogged flair for homespun domesticity.

"I am rather glad to have been hit by a bullet," he writes on his return from the Spanish Civil War, "because I think it will happen to us all in the near future". Moreover, "it doesn't hurt to speak of".

Stoic but vulnerable, warm but prickly, Orwell's personality rings out from every absorbing page.