A PEOPLE Magazine Must-Read Book for Fall 2023
A Guardian Biggest New Book of 2023
A LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2023
An imaginative, feminist, and brilliantly relevant-to-today retelling of Orwell’s 1984, from the point of view of Winston Smith’s lover, Julia, by critically acclaimed novelist Sandra Newman.
Julia Worthing is a mechanic, working in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth. It’s 1984, and Britain (now called Airstrip One) has long been absorbed into the larger trans-Atlantic nation of Oceania. Oceania has been at war for as long as anyone can remember, and is ruled by an ultra-totalitarian Party, whose leader is a quasi-mythical figure called Big Brother. In short, everything about this world is as it is in Orwell’s 1984.
All her life, Julia has known only Oceania, and, until she meets Winston Smith, she has never imagined anything else. She is an ideal citizen: cheerfully cynical, always ready with a bribe, piously repeating every political slogan while believing in nothing. She routinely breaks the rules, but also collaborates with the regime when necessary. Everyone likes Julia.
Then one day she finds herself walking toward Winston Smith in a corridor and impulsively slips him a note, setting in motion the devastating, unforgettable events of the classic story. Julia takes us on a surprising journey through Orwell’s now-iconic dystopia, with twists that reveal unexpected sides not only to Julia, but to other familiar figures in the 1984 universe. This unique perspective lays bare our own world in haunting and provocative ways, just as the original did almost seventy-five years ago.
Sandra Newman is the author of the novels The Men, The Heavens (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), and The Country of Ice Cream Star, longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and NPR, as well as several other works of fiction and nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s and Granta, among other publications. She lives in New York City.
"As George Orwell predicted, Big Brother is indeed watching us, making his classic novel, 1984, ripe for revival. This daring retelling moves Winston Smith to the side and centers his badass girlfriend.” — People
“A fascinating reflection on totalitarianism as refracted through Orwell’s times and our own.” — The Guardian
“Offers a female character with a rich inner life. Her Julia is a survivor, more subversive than Winston, adroit at evading control, finding a kind of liberty...A twisty ending in keeping with the original makes this an enjoyable read even to those unfamiliar with 1984...This Julia cannot help but balance out [Orwell’s] blind spots and bring his opus up to date.” — The Economist
“Newman seems uniquely qualified to update Orwell’s anti-fascist cri du cœur…She embroiders the edges of the original WWII-flavored vision with myriad amusing flourishes…Book clubs could have great fun reading the two together." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Electrically memorable, Julia is as startling and incendiary as 1984 ever was, with dark humor and pathos commenting on perennially timely questions.” — Shelf Awareness
“Newman delivers a provocative feminist retelling of George Orwell’s 1984...Julia’s narrative voice is refreshingly fearless as she navigates her way around the Party’s nefarious thought policing, and a wicked plot twist spins the original narrative on its ear. Newman adds a fresh coat of menacing gray to Orwell’s gloomy world.” — Publishers Weekly
“Brilliant...fresh...Wonderful." — Booklist
"This extraordinary novel is like a newly discovered room in your house, in a dream—the illusion is so precise, the execution so masterful, that you think it must have been there all along, just waiting for you to find it. Sandra Newman has succeeded wildly at the impossible task she was given; Julia should surprise and delight not only devotees of Orwell’s classic, but fans of Newman’s own daring, disquieting, and emotionally affecting oeuvre.”
— J. Robert Lennon, author of Subdivision and Broken River
“If you thought you knew Julia, as 1984's Manic Pixie Dream Girl, be warned. In Sandra Newman's compelling retelling, Julia has both a conniving agency as well as an escalating and tragic fragmentation. Oceania, Newman insists, has a whole other layer of dystopian horror for its women.” — Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair
“A book whose disturbing imagination reaches through the page into our world.” — Naomi Alderman, New York Times Book Review, on The Men
“Heady and elegant . . . The Heavens is something of a chameleon, a strange and beautiful hybrid . . . I woke from The Heavens as I hope to emerge from any work of fiction: moved and unsettled, a new and intoxicating set of questions alight on the mind’s horizon.” — Laura Van Den Berg, New York Times Book Review
“Special books are Sandra Newman’s specialty, and The Heavens is no exception . . . If you decide to delve into it, Newman will take you on quite a ride through her vivid imagination.” — Lynn Neary, NPR Weekend Edition