A beautifully sculpted commentary on free will

From Goodreads
From Goodreads

A Clockwork Orangea very naughty boy gets sent to the naughty step.

In my first return to The List for two months is Anthony Burgess’ infamous classic, complete with notorious nadsat. A Clockwork Orange is in many ways an odd book, and one which took some time to get into the swing of. However, when I did I found a story with a cracking plot, killer cast, and bemusing language-not unlike The Lord of the Rings! All of these make it a first class novel, and a deserving classic.

Alex is fifteen, but already a ‘rabble-rouser’-rape, robbery, and pretty much every heinous crime under the sun you can think of, short of murder. I found that it’s hard to write a synopsis without including one of the key events in the book, and indeed the blurb of mine gave the key event, an event which is occurs around the middle of the book-the first half is much less relevant, but still enjoyable after reading the blurb. So, just to warn you, I will include that spoiler here and only here-Alex is sent to prison, and volunteers for a new programme designed to reform him and release him years early. The result is a beautifully sculpted commentary on free will and the ability of man to reform his ways.

reading nadsat is a challenge, an art, and a skill

Of nadsat, I will say this. It has helped me understand the Russian for ‘tea’ (‘chai’). However, in books such as The Lord of the Rings, hundreds of pages long and with complete new races, inventing a language to pass the time is fine, an adventure for the reader. But in a book which is only 141 pages and set in the not too distant future, the street talk confused me. But it also appealed to me, in a strange way. I kept a grip on my above logical view, but it was actually strangely alluring, I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was what, and trying to remember. It made the book more interesting, it was actually one of my favourite things about the novel.

However, that does have a consequence. You cannot, simply cannot, start reading, stop, then carry on a week later. You have got to read it in as short a time as possible, or your grasp on nadsat will be gone. There is no way (unless you are very good at languages, which I’m not) that you can do that, reading nadsat is a challenge, an art, and a skill, and not one to be taken lightly or put off.

As Burgess later stated, “I was sickened by my own excitement at setting it down”. The ‘it’ of course, refers to the horrendous scenes of violence within the novel, it is in no way for the faint hearted. We are narrated tales of rape, robbery, brawling-in detail which can only be described as HD. This HD comes with a price, however, the “red red kroovy [blood]” flows often, and as a shock tactic works wonders. The reader leaves shell shocked. It could be considered too intense for some readers though, and definitely makes it a no-go for younger readers.

Opening words:

What’s it going to be then, eh?

Character development-one of the definitive guides to human nature, and similar to Lord of the Flies in its views on human nature, yet with a startling twist which gives it a different message. Burgess has created a masterpiece which profiles a thug brilliantly- ★★★★★

Readability-initially quite tricky due to the nadsat, but when you get into it, it is brilliant- ★★★★★

Overall-fantastic comment on human nature, with a novel plot (and language) that make it deserving of its status as a classic. Each reading will unearth something new which wasn’t noticed on the previous reading (I discovered that each part starts with “What’s it going to be then, eh”)- ★★★★★ (98)

Agree? Disagree?

Have you read A Clockwork Orange or other similar books? Did you agree or disagree with my review? Please leave a comment or contact me, I would be interested to discuss it. Otherwise, please share with the buttons below and rate.

5 thoughts on “A beautifully sculpted commentary on free will

  1. Great post! I love the layout of your blog. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful review of such a great book! If you’re ever interested in some other sweet book reviews and literary musings, be sure to follow! Thanks!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read this book, though it sounds like one I ought to stay away from. I don’t handle graphic violence well. Am curious, though, about whether you saw the movie and, if so, how it stacked up against the book. (No, I haven’t seen the movie either.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope, but I’ve heard it’s quite…notorious. The violence in ‘Clockwork Orange’ is funny (well, ironic then) as it is in nadsat, rather than actual descriptions, but even so it is surprising what can be conveyed.


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