While I found Coming Up for Air interesting and also rather funny, I did not enjoy it as much as Keep the Apisdistra Flying and Burmese Days.
Possibly because, unlike the other two, this book was written from a first person view point rather than third person as the other two were.
Not that first person narration can't be successful, but Orwell's strength seems to lie in describing the inner thoughts of the protagonist by a third person narrator.
Also, there is no real story line or character development. Largely it is a man's, George Bowling's, attempts to return to the England of his youth.
It starts with Bowling's present status which is a typical middle class working man, married with children. He should be happy with what he has, but he is not. He doesn't mind his children, his wife is a bit of a shrew, but then what wife wouldn't be if married to him.
Bowling does not make this conclusion and I'm not altogether sure Orwell is implying it. It is what I conclude based on the loutish character of Bowling.
Bowling isn't a lout in that he's cruel or abusive. But he's not faithful and he is selfish. He lies to his wife by keeping money squirreled away from her and telling her he's off on business when he's actually returning to his home town, Lower Binfield, which he hasn't been to since he left it for the war (WWI).
What he wants is a vacation all to himself and return to the town of his youth. In order for us to fully appreciate his visit he hearkens back to his childhood and describes life with his parents, his older brother and friends and schools and everyone in the town.
He particularly remembers a place near the River Thames where gigantic carp swam in a water hole. He never got the chance to fish there. He is determined to do so when he arrives.
He recalls his first love, who he leaves for the war. He describes his experience in the war which is not at all remarkable. Or rather it is remarkable for a complete lack of action. He did, however, get quite a bit or reading done.
The first problem when Bowling arrives is figuring out exactly where the town is. It has developed so much that it takes him some time to find the original section where he grew up. I'm sure today it would be called the "historic district".
He checks into a hotel. Considers mildly flirting with local women, perhaps enjoy a brief encounter, but nothing develops.
Bowling buys fishing tackle but upon finding, after a lot of effort and directions by people who "think they know" he finds the site of the carp pool. It no longer exists because a new housing development has supplanted it.
In a nutshell, Bowling finds he can't go home again. His home is now a tea shop, and his family's furniture is the antique decor, including family photos, which still fills the rooms. What a strange feeling that must be.
He did accidentally run into his first love. Or rather recognized her and followed her into a store. She is no longer the slim, attractive girl he was attracted to, but heavy and square and judging from the mundane gossip she is engaged in with the store owner, not educated.
Finally, he gives up and returns home, deflated and depressed. But, alas, his trials are not over. His wife checked up on him and found that he was not at the town he purported to be in because the hotel he claimed to be staying in was now defunct.
Her natural assumption is that he was having an affair (there had already been a precedent set). This time he was not but how can he persuade her that he was just visiting his childhood home. He can't and the story ends with an indication that poor George has quite a few weeks of scolding and sleeping on the couch in store for him.
Returning to childhood is always a failed experiment. At least for George Bowling.
Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell