‘How strange to think that there have been men like ourselves, and living in this beautiful and happy country, who I suppose had feelings and affections like ourselves, who could yet do such dreadful things’
Rating: 3 stars
Read: 16 October – 19 October, 2018
News From Nowhere was my first introduction to William Morris, and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s a lovely utopian story exploring a humane socialist future. Exhausted from a Socialist League meeting, William Guest returns home to sleep. He doesn’t wake to his ordinary 19th century life, though. Instead, he finds himself in a Communist society two decades later. England has been transformed into a socialist society after the revolutionary upheaval of 1952. The story follows his journey across London and up the Thames whilst he learns all about this way of living.
I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I thought the opening of the story utterly brilliant. I was intrigued by how this sort of society worked and, more importantly, how a nineteenth century writer envisioned it. We all know how the Victorian period worked: it was built upon oppression, mistreatment and greed. I thought Morris’ detachment from this society extremely thought-provoking. He dreamt of a society without class, labour, gender politics, and so on. It was a society built upon compassion and fairness. It’s what you want the world to look like.
At times, it seemed too good to be true – a little whimsical, you may say – but I was still on board with it.
However, I did find myself losing interest towards the middle. The story started to get a little dull when William made his journey up the Thames. I wasn’t really learning anything new, and I felt the narrative start to drag. I was also a little disappointed with Morris’ treatment of women in the novel. In a this sort of society, one would expect to find women completely free from those sexist stereotypes of the 19th century. Although not exclusively confined to domestic activities, Morris still shows them in that sphere. They still wait on men. Their range of work is still narrower. It was frustrating, to say the least.
All-in-all, it was a fascinating read. I found myself a little frustrated at times, especially with the erasure of education (it wasn’t compulsory and reading became a rare past-time), but there were parts that I did really enjoy though. For that I would recommend it to those interested in this kind of story. Morris is a brilliant and engaging writer, and I definitely need to check out some more of his stuff! I’d never heard of News From Nowhere or Morris before, so I’m glad I was asked to read this for university.
Have you read News From Nowhere? What do we think of it? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X