Advertising, single-malt whisky, and a remote Scottish island feature prominently in this novel about a man paying homage to his love for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Ray Welter, a burned-out advertising executive with a failed marriage, decides to radically alter his life by going to Jura, an island in the Inner Hebrides, and renting Barnhill, the very house where Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ray has been obsessed by the novel since college, and in flashbacks to his career as an adman, both he and the reader see the irony of his life—he’s become a slave to Big Brother (in the guise of corporate America), using Newspeak to sell products that he doesn’t believe in. On the island he finds an assortment of eccentrics—one of whom believes himself to be a werewolf—and at least one almost-certifiable sociopath, Gavin Pitcairn, whose 17-year-old daughter, Molly, desperately wants to leave Jura and go to art school. As one might expect, Ray finds Barnhill much different from the romanticized mental image he’d created, and those older islanders who remember Eric Blair (George Orwell’s real name) have not-so-fond memories of him. The house had been abandoned for a good while, and it's in such a state of disrepair that it's almost unlivable, but Ray takes comfort in the abundant local Scotch whisky and in rereading his beloved first edition of the novel. When Molly takes refuge with Ray at Barnhill to escape her abusive father, she acts provocatively, though no romance develops. Still, Gavin assumes the worst, making Ray’s hold on life much more tenuous than it had been.
A dramatic, thoughtful, and at times comic revisiting of (and attempt to escape from) Orwell’s world.