A Novel

Norman Bissell

ISBN: 9781912147878

Binding: hardback

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Back cover text:

George Orwell left post-war London for Barnhill, a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Jura, to write what became Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was driven by a passionate desire to undermine the enemies of democracy and make plain the dangers of dictatorship, surveillance, doublethink and censorship. 

Typing away in his damp bedroom overlooking the garden he created and the sea beyond, he invented Big Brother, Thought Police, Newspeak and Room 101 – and created a masterpiece. 

Barnhill tells the dramatic story of this crucial period of Orwell’s life. Deeply researched, it reveals the private man behind the celebrated public figure – his turbulent love life, his devotion to his baby son and his declining health as he struggled to deliver his dystopian warning to the world. 


Barnhill is a fascinating and original new addition to the canon of books about Orwell and brings a distinctly Scottish perspective to one of the great backstories in literature. Angus MacKinnon

A rich absorbing narrative that draws an authentic picture of the life of a great writer. Leela Soma

Through a literary lens, Bissell does for Orwell what Johnny Depp did for J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. He brings the man most vibrantly alive. Alistair McIntosh


I’ve had this idea swilling around in my head for too long. I must write it down…

For years I had dreamt about living on a Hebridean island…

‘How’s Eileen these days?’

‘All right... but I’m afraid she’s a bit run down.’

‘What’s wrong with her?’

‘I don’t really know... but we’ve never been so happy since we got Ricky.’ He looked around him as if they were under surveillance and almost whispered, ‘It’s not always been plain sailing, and we’ve had our troubles. It’s a real marriage, you know.’ He knew he could safely share secrets with Paul. A close, penniless pal, he owed George. And not just money.

‘I know.’ Stretching out, Paul blinked in the early sun, its warmth and the whisky relaxing him.

‘She’s had a lot to put up with, what with my writing and all.’ He knew fine well his writing was the least of it.

Read more of Barnhill on the Orwell Society website

Watch the first live reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four

Want to stay in Barnhill? You can book a holiday in this historic house here.

Read a Q&A with Norman Bissell about writing Barnhill for the Islay Book Festival

Find out more about Norman Bissell and his other publications from his profile on the Scottish Book Trust website

A tour of Orwell’s Jura, where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in The Guardian

Discover the Scottish island where George Orwell created Nineteen Eighty-Four with the BBC

Learn more about Orwell with the Orwell Society or The Orwell Foundation

The New York Times’ review of Nineteen Eighty-Four

Listen to The Real George Orwell by the BBC