A new retelling of ‘1984’ has an entirely new take on the dystopian classic

Author Sandra Newman’s proposed retelling of George Orwell’s seminal dystopian novel 1984 received the stamp of approval from George Orwell’s estate and is set for publication sometime next year. Newman’s novel, Julia, reframes Orwell’s cautionary tale of totalitarian government through a feminist viewpoint. Newman tells the story from the point of view of Julia, Winston Smith’s covertly rebellious lover from the original novel.

Sandra Newman

Granta will publish Julia following the release of Newman’s fifth novel, The Men, next year. Newman is best known to readers for her third novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star, which was log-listed for The Bailey Prize and The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, and the memoir Changeling. Film and TV rights won’t be optioned for several months yet, but there is reportedly a great deal of interest in bringing Julia to the screen on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Orwell’s 1984, Julia is a “rebel from the waist down” who understands the world of the book almost instinctually and, unlike protagonist Winston Smith, is almost apathetic about the actual politics of INGSOC. Orwell’s estate has reportedly been looking for someone for “quite some time” to tell the character’s side of the story and has described Newman as “a perfect fit.” According to Orwell’s literary executor, Bill Hamilton, “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. Sandra gets under the skin of Big Brother’s world in a compelling way which is both true to the original but also gives a dramatically different narrative to stand alongside the original”.

Orwell’s classic has been brought to the big screen twice before, once in 1956 with Edmond O’Brien and Jan Sterling as Winson and Julia, and, appropriately enough, in 1984 featuring John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton. Though there is no definite deal on the table at this time, current interest indicates that Julia may be in the running to join them.