Burning Down George Orwell’s House

a novel // Soho Press

A darkly comic debut novel about advertising, truth, single malt, Scottish hospitality—or lack thereof—and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Ray Welter, who was until recently a high-flying advertising executive in Chicago, has left the world of newspeak behind. He decamps to the isolated Scottish Isle of Jura in order to spend a few months in the cottage where George Orwell wrote most of his seminal novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ray is miserable, and quite prepared to make his troubles go away with the help of copious quantities of excellent scotch.

But a few of the local islanders take a decidedly shallow view of a foreigner coming to visit in order to sort himself out, and Ray quickly finds himself having to deal with not only his own issues but also a community whose eccentricities are at times amusing and at others downright dangerous. Also, the locals believe—or claim to believe—that there’s a werewolf about, and against his better judgment, Ray’s misadventures build to the night of a traditional, boozy werewolf hunt on the Isle of Jura on the summer solstice.

Available Here:

  • sellers-powells
  • sellers-ib
  • sellers-bn
  • sellers-amazon


“Burning Down George Orwell’s House is really most enjoyable, a witty, original turn on the life and memory of the Sage of Jura, taking place on the island where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. Eric Blair serves as the McGuffin in this story, which is one part black comedy and one part a meditation on modern life. It is well written and truly original.”
—Robert Stone


“Burning Down George Orwell’s House is fiction as high-wire act, and Ray Welter is a nowhere man for the ages, going down and out in the shadow of the man himself. Ervin tosses up hilarity and horror, musicality and menace, with page after page of firecracker prose.”
—Marlon James 


“As all good comedies do, Ervin’s novel contains a sober question at its core—in this case, whether the idea of ‘escape’ itself is just another manipulation sold to us ‘proles’ by the very same wired world that engulfs and exhausts us. Take a wild guess what George Orwell would say.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

Paperback edition (2016)


Burning Down George Orwell’s House is a sweet book full of delights. Since many of its best passages are rhapsodies on single malt whiskies, one is tempted to call it a wee bonny dram of a tale.”
—The New York Times Book Review

(Editor’s Choice)


“A whisky-soaked hoot worth hollering about.”
—The Austin Chronicle


“Big Brother might not be watching [Ray Welter] but the island’s eccentric locals sure are and also, possibly, a werewolf. High comedy ensues as Welter tries to find himself, Orwell and the savage beast.”
—New York Post


“A glorious debut.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer


“Wry and engaging… Nineteen Eighty-Four casts a long shadow over countless books—but not this one… Ervin has achieved something uniquely refreshing: a book that shows the taste and restraint to pay knowing, affectionate and humorous tribute to George Orwell without trying to prove him right—or to create some redundant simulacrum of his work.”
—Paste Magazine


“A breezy bit of fun for anyone who dreams of Scotland, enjoys a wee dram of scotch and wonders what it might be like to leave modern life behind – at least for a few hours.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer


“Follows in the tradition of classic comedies where a supposedly cosmopolitan outsider tests his welcome in an insular old-world village. Both come in for some good-natured satire.”


“Besides the sheer entertainment that Burning Down George Orwell’s House provides, its value comes in its power to make readers stop and take a close look at their own priorities.”


“You will get thirsty, and if you can muster up a fire in a fireplace, you’ll be set.”
—Black Sheep Dances


“Burning Down will appeal to those who have wondered what ditching our smart phones and laptops would do to make our lives less complicated. What geographically remote island could we retreat to for some peace of mind and, obviously, some world-class scotch?”
—The Santa Fe Writer’s Project Quarterly


“A dramatic, thoughtful, and at times comic revisiting of (and attempt to escape from) Orwell’s world.”
Kirkus Reviews


“Captures the stark and chill atmosphere of the small island, on which strangers are unwelcome and apparently very good whiskey is consumed in copious quantities.”


“Ervin writes with skill and a penchant for the absurd… Very funny.”
—Library Journal


“Ervin excels at atmosphere and fish-out-of-water interactions.”
—Publishers Weekly



Gallimard/Éd. Joëlle Losfeld (2016). Translated by Marc Weizmann.

“A sharply funny portrait of a young yuppie returning to something approaching a state of nature… Is it possible to open up a place to the outside world; to knowledge, to literature and art, without a cost to its identity? This is a finely-formed question posed by Andrew Ervin… an interrogation of societies’ ability to surmount their self-erected barricades.”
—Ariane Singer, Le Monde


“A very successful, unusual, and wonderfully translated first novel… At times somber, yet humorous… as tasty as 17-year-old Bowmore!”
—Delphine Peras, L’Express


“This brilliant first novel of Andrew Ervin’s conceals its art well. Beneath the single-malt-washed comedy, this is a perfectly delicate analysis of the temptations that lie in the air.”
—Élisabeth Barillé, Le Figaro


“It is completely exhilarating: as soon as you have started it, you cannot stop turning the pages. And when you’ve finished, dazzled as you are by the talent, you rush to return to it.”
—Gérard Guégan, Sud Ouest


“A novel that is cerebral, complex, and somber enough despite the occasional ray of sunshine and despite its happy ending, a novel that could pass as a parable about the anxiety of the White Western Male. And it is all related not without humor, and greatly reinforced with whisky, that elixir of the gods: golden, peaty, violent and bewitching all at the same time. Just like this book. It can be enjoyed without moderation.”
—Jean-Claude Perrier, Livres Hebdo


“With an uncommon sense of humor, the young American novelist Andrew Ervin, for whom this is his first novel, has taken his Breathalyzer test—and it really hit the spot.”
—Didier Jacob, L’Obs


“A humorous and biting novel; evincing hopelessness in its own way, even if we never stop smiling as we read it. What it tells us, without making any fuss of it, is that wanting to feel an Orwellian and polluted world to rediscover the Rousseau-esque purity of time-forgotten spaces is really not the idea of the century… And it tells us also that, come what may, sooner or later, Big Brother will arrive even here.”
—Jérôme Leroy, Causeur


“We smile the whole way through reading Burning Down George Orwell’s House, which reveals itself as a novel of waiting, a waiting which is present in the work’s ambiguous title, pointing to an event which never actually seems to come. We stay drunk on the island air of Jura, and on its gallery of oddball personalities which make the story so attractive, all whilst savoring a sort of moral, quite fatalistic, which could be resumed thus: in the end, nobody can escape Big Brother.”
—Yannick Chassort, Une Pause Littéraire


“A book sparkling with humor…. Impossible to detail here all the adventures of our American on this windblown island where all that thrives in the hostile climate are thousands of sheep and perhaps a hundred natives, armed with nothing more than that gift of the gods, the single-malt whiskey of which the island has made a specialty. But suffice it to say that our poor townie has not found paradise.”
—Alexis Liebart, Le Magazine Littéraire


Burning Down George Orwell’s House is a wickedly funny novel soaked in wit and whisky as well as a poetic revelation on consumer living. Ervin ingeniously draws you into the disturbing world of Jura and its menacing inhabitants. I fucking loved it.”
—Lisa O’Donnell, author of The Death of Bees


“Ray Welter — corrupted, debauched, cuckolded, fighting all the way down — is a brilliant creation, and Andrew Ervin’s Burning Down George Orwell’s House is a work of laudable mischief.”
—Owen King, author of Double Feature


“Beyond being a vastly entertaining novel, cunningly observed and delicately flavored with the very finest Scotch whiskey on the planet, Burning Down George Orwell’s House is a serious meditation on just how Orwellian our world has really become. Let Andrew Ervin help you imagine your way to a world beyond Big Brother.”
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising



From Publisher’s Lunch, 3/27/14
International rights: Fiction / French rights to the author of EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS author Andrew Ervin’s BURNING DOWN GEORGE ORWELL’S HOUSE, to Joelle Losfeld at Gallimard, in a nice deal, by Anne Maizeret at La Nouvelle Agence on behalf of Markus Hoffmann at Regal Literary.

From Publishers Marketplace, 8/30/13
“EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS author and critic Andrew Ervin’s debut novel BURNING DOWN GEORGE ORWELL’S HOUSE, about a Chicago ad agent who flees his old life for the sparsely populated Scottish island of Jura, renting the house where Orwell wrote NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, consuming copious quantities of single malt, and provoking the violent enmity of a local man, to Mark Doten at Soho Press, by Markus Hoffmann at Regal Literary (World English).”