Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

orangeA Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
(dystopian, classic fiction)

I finished this book, but it felt like an obligation to do so. I did not enjoy it. It feels like the kind of book you’re not supposed to enjoy, though. It felt like a morality tale. Yes, I suppose at this point it is a classic. And yes, there is enough action in the book that it’s readable for the modern reader, unlike some very slow paced older classics. However, the slang-talk which the narrator uses just grated on my nerves. (Yes, it’s more-or-less understandable and very consistent, once you get used to it. I just didn’t like it.) I also didn’t sympathize with the main character at all, and for me that’s a deal breaker when it comes to enjoying a book. If this one had been a longer book, or had taken me longer to finish, I probably would have returned it to the library unfinished.

So, the plot… there are three acts to this book. In the first one, we follow our narrator around as he (a then-fifteen-year-old boy) gets into trouble by causing all sorts of violence. He beats people up, rapes women (and girls closer to his age), and steals stuff, and gets away with almost all of it. Real likable kid, yeah? Then he gets caught, and Act Two is two years later, in prison. And he doesn’t get any more likable after that. Even the tortuous rehabilitation he undergoes (which felt to me like the reason the author was writing the story) didn’t endear him to me at all. Act Three was noteworthy in that it included the final chapter which was left out of the original American publication (and therefore also left out of the movie). It was interesting to read that and try to figure out why it was left out and why the author wanted it back in.

Is it worth reading? Well, that all depends. If you want to read it (as I did) because “it is a classic” and you want to experience it, then go for it. If you have watched the movie and want to see more of the world or see how the author wanted it to end, then yes, read the book. If you are looking for a fun read or a likable (even sympathetic) main character, however, skip this one.

Rating: 2 stars

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One thought on “Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

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  1. I feel the same way about this book as I do about the movie Pulp Fiction. Sure, it’s interesting and artistic. But do I really want to know these people?

    I guess they are Ok for a brief bit of time. But anything beyond a passing recognition of these characters is blighting to the spirit.

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