In yet another example of the book’s dystopian story being taken as a guide book rather than a cautionary warning, George Orwell’s 1984 is set to receive a feminist retelling which will see the story retold from the point of view of Julia, the love interest of the original novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith.
Penned by author Sandra Newman, the aptly titled Julia will explore the events of 1984 through the eponymous character’s female perspective, who, as noted by the book’s publisher, Granta, understands the world of Oceania “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life.”
“She has known no other world and, until she meets Winston, never imagined one,” said a Granta spokesperson to The Guardian. “She’s opportunistic, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She routinely breaks the rules but also collaborates with the regime whenever necessary.”
“She’s an ideal citizen of Oceania,” they continued. “But when one day, finding herself walking toward Winston Smith in a long corridor, she impulsively hands him a note – a potentially suicidal gesture – she comes to realise that she’s losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.”
The publisher further noted that “Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, has been consulted and approves of the project”.
According to the literary executor of Orwell’s estate, Bill Hamilton, the estate had been “looking for some time” for someone to give 1984 a feminist revamp, eventually finding that Newman “proved to be the perfect fit.”
“Two of the unanswered questions in Orwell’s novel are what Julia sees in Winston, and how she has navigated her way through the party hierarchy,” said Hamilton. “Sandra [Newman] gets under the skin of Big Brother’s world in a completely convincing way which is both true to the original but also gives a dramatically different narrative to stand alongside the original.”
In conclusion to his promotion of the upcoming novel, Hamilton attempted to inspire excitement in its release by claiming that “the millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will find this a provocative and satisfying companion.”
Julia is set to release sometime after Newman’s next novel The Men, which sees everyone with a Y chromosome vanish from the world, hits shelves next June.
However, given The Men’s subject matter, it’s possible Julia may never see the light of day, as it remains to be seen whether or not Newman’s contract survives the inevitable gauntlet of biology-denying outrage that led to the cancellation of the similarly themed Y: The Last Man’s live-action television adaptation.
Of course, as noted above, the mere concept of rewriting the story from Julia’s perspective flies in the face of Orwell’s warning of a fascistic future.
After all, in the world of Oceania, as described by the novel, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. History has stopped.”
What do you make of 1984 getting an Orwell-estate approved feminist retelling? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!