A Clergyman's Daughter (1935) by George Orwell is one of two novels that he didn't want reprinted (the other being Keep the Aspidistra Flying), because he felt they were flawed in some fundamental way. A Cleargyman's Daughter is experimental in several ways and while somewhat flawed, it has some very worthwhile strengths as well. First of all, Orwell is excellent at describing the miseries of poverty, provincial life, and life in the city. He is great at creating memorable characters which are vividly described and come alive with the wonderful dialogue crated by Orwell-he knew people and knew them inside and out from all levels of society. He describes shady Mr. Wharburton's conversation as "Oscar Wilde seven times watered" and the main character Dorthy's father wish to live in the past as "very expensive: you can't do it on less than two thousand a year." A wry observation about Dorthy herself states that "she did indeed believe in Hell, but she couldn't persuade herself that anyone actually went there." And perhaps my favorite description is that of Dorthy's employer at the school, Mrs. Creevy: "She was one of those people who experience a kind of spiritual orgasm when they manage to do somebody else a bad turn."
The book is basically divided into three sections. The first sections establishes Dorthy's un-fulfilling life as the daughter of a Clergyman in a small town. She is a kind of puritanical, chaste true believer who is trying to live in a highly virtuous manner much to the obliviousness of everyone around her. The second section occurs after a dubious incident where Dorthy loses her memory and winds up on the bum with a group of homeless youths who take her along for hops picking, which Orwell chronicles with his usual accuracy and details of the miseries associated with such mindless hard labor. After that she spends 10 days as a homeless woman in London before she regains her memory and seeks help from her father, who only helps her by having a distant relation find work for her at a fourth-rate finishing school for girls, where Orwell can have ago at those institutions as well. Finally she is saved from that drudgery and returns to her former life, but only after having lost her faith. This aspect was interesting since I have re-read Animal Farm recently, and religion is not highly valued by Orwell in that novel either. So I was wondering where Orwell was going with this devout protagonist. In the last third of the novel it became clear that religion was another target for Orwell to take to task. Perhaps, being a hug fan of Orwell made this novel more interesting for me than the average reader, but I think it has worth outside of being a curiosity for avid fans.