Orwell’s “1984” to Get “Feminist Retelling” From Julia’s Perspective

"Julia" will recount the events of Orwell's classic from the perspective of Winston Smith's love interest

A boy reads a book next to copies of British writer George Orwell's 1984 at Hong Kong's annual book fair on July 15, 2015.
"Julia" will retell "1984" from the female perspective.
aaron tam/AFP via Getty

I think at this point we can all agree that any new adaptations of classic literature should involve the Muppets. Unfortunately, the powers that be over at the literary adaptation factory have failed us once again, offering us a retelling of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from the perspective of the book’s female lead instead of the dystopian Muppet drama we deserve.

Julia, a forthcoming novel from author Sandra Newman, will recount the events of Orwell’s cautionary classic through the eyes of Winston Smith’s illicit love interest. The project, promoted as a “feminist retelling” of the 1949 novel, has received the green light from Orwell’s estate, which has apparently been “looking for some time” for an author to tell Julia’s story. Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, has also reportedly “been consulted and approves of the project,” according to The Guardian.

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in sophomore English class, Julia is the secretly sexually liberated “rebel from the waist downwards” who Winston, the book’s protagonist, initially despises from afar, then begins an affair with after a secret love note reveals that she, too, is a fellow thoughtcriminal. They meet for secluded outdoor hookups in the country for a bit, then set up a little love nest above an old antiques shop. They have some illicit sex and dabble in obviously ill-fated plans to rebel against the dystopian regime, before being captured, tortured and ultimately betraying each other to the government. (Sorry, spoilers.)

Newman’s adaptation will give us these events from Julia’s perspective, breathing life into her character and shedding light on some of her arguably unclear motives in the original novel. “Two of the unanswered questions in Orwell’s novel are what Julia sees in Winston, and how she has navigated her way through the party hierarchy,” said the estate’s literary executor Bill Hamilton. “Sandra gets under the skin of Big Brother’s world in a completely convincing way which is both true to the original but also gives a dramatically different narrative to stand alongside the original.”

The estate promises that Orwell fans will find Julia, set to hit shelves in 2023, “a provocative and satisfying companion” to the original novel, though probably not as provocative and satisfying as Muppet dystopia, just saying.

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