SIM Ep 888 Chops 270: Wifedom

Anna Funder’s Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life is, ostensibly, a biography of Eileen Blair, nee Eileen O’Shaughnessy, aka the first Mrs George Orwell. And indeed, Anna tells Eileen’s story beautifully, using Eileen’s own words from letters to friends and to her husband, with added judicious fiction, as she imagines scenes from the Orwells’ lives, and from Eileen’s life. 

Turns out, Eileen played a vital role in Orwell’s writing and in his life (in actually saving his life – and indeed in keeping alive many others during the Spanish Civil War) and yet she’s mostly absent from Orwell’s own writing and from his biographies, which are all written by men.

And so, as well as shining a light on one woman’s hitherto hidden life, Wifedom is also a polemic against the patriarchy and an examination of what it meant and means to be a wife. 

In this Chops, Mick chats to Anna about all of this, about wife-ing, about Eileen, about Orwell, and, not unrelated to that last name, a lot about arseholes. 

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