This review is turning out to be difficult to write; this was such a good book and was so full that I am not sure how to correctly express my reaction to it and feelings about it. I finished it on Saturday and almost immediately pressed it into the hands of of friend with many a "you must read this", and I sent texts to bookish friends telling them that Homage to Catalonia simply has to be their read, and I want to give it to people for Christmas and birthdays and hang over them until they read it. If that gives you any indication of my deep appreciation for this book, then maybe you too will find it and read it. The tone is conversational and gentle, and Orwell tries to be as even-handed as he can.
Instead of several more paragraphs of gushing, I'll just put some quotes in here and call it a day:
"One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting"
"If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness. However, I had the satisfaction of catching on of them a good punch that sent him flying."
"Smillie's death is not a thing I can easily forgive. Here was this brave and gifted boy, who had thrown up his career at Glasgow University in order to come fight against Fascism, and who, as I saw for myself, has done his job at the front with faultless courage and willingness; and all they could find to do with him was to fling him into jail and let him die like a neglected animal. I know that in the middle of a huge and bloody war it is no use making too much fuss over an individual death. One aeroplane bomb in a crowded street causes more suffering than quite a lot of political persecution. But what angers one about a death like this is its utter pointlessness. To be killed in battle — yes, that is what one expects; but to be flung into jail, not even for any imaginary offence, but simply owing to dull blind spite, and then left to die in solitude — that is a different matter. I fail to see how this kind of thing — and it is not as though Smillie’s case were exceptional — brought victory any nearer."
"The word 'shot' gave me a sort of inward shudder. A bullet had entered my own body recently and the feeling of it was fresh in my memory; it is not nice to think of that happening to anyone you know well."
Honestly, I wish I could get across what this book is like, but I don't think I really can. Read it, please. It's available online here.