The biographical novel is a problematic form: it is always likely to contain too much fact for some and too much fiction for others. The problem only increases if the life being described has already been thoroughly analysed. In his debut novel, Dennis Glover takes a risk, therefore, in writing about George Orwell. Do we really need to know more about him?
Surprisingly, it turns out that we do. Glover has previously written a nonfiction book about Orwell and is familiar with his subject, but it is not his knowledge that impresses so much as his ability to select and condense. Orwell left behind masses of diaries, letters and books, and although his life was tragically short, it was full of incident. But how to decide what should be dramatised and what excised?
Writing in short, sharp scenes, Glover miraculously sketches in the whole life. He links disparate events neatly and moves fluently back and forwards across time, giving us Shiplake, Wigan, Barnsley and Barcelona. Realising that most readers will already know Orwell, he wisely decides that much can be left unexplained.