This collection of eleven of Orwell’s diaries, from 1931 to 1949, is a treasure, both for the historical and literary researcher and the lay reader. Orwell famously engaged with the great events and social movements of his age and writes about them here in ways which are fascinating for the student of his books, although – frustratingly – some of his diaries covering the Spanish Civil War remain in the NKVD Archives in Moscow. There are also, however, enchanting entries about his garden (‘One of the plants that carries the snow most beautifully is lavender’) and his animals (‘Pig active again’, the number of eggs collected each day noted as meticulously as Bridget Jones’ calorie intake!). Even though many of the entries are in note form, they retain the spare elegance and rhythm of his more formal prose, making for a fluent and absorbing read.
Peter Davison has done a thorough and excellent job of editing the diaries, which are extensively annotated and indexed. Expensive, but worth it.