Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties Hardcover – 31 Oct 2013
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Inspirational, warm and witty (Daily Mail)
Rachel Cooke shines a new light in an elegantly original way into the 1950s and especially into the role of women therein. By cleverly focussing on the lives of several extraordinary women, she manages to produce a social history which is highly absorbing and richly informative. A very enjoyable and distinctive book (Kate Atkinson)
There is warmth and lightness of spirit to this book: it is witty, intelligent, kind and poignant. Cooke exudes love and knowledge of people, gardens, food, art . . . she leaves you wanting more (The Times)
Vastly entertaining, cannily researched and sharply perceptive (Telegraph)
Wonderfully evocative . . . Cooke's writing sparkles; it is fresh and original and has great insight (Literary Review)
Eloquent, concise, fair-minded, witty and elegant . . . Her Brilliant Career is the perfect book with which to celebrate Virago's 40 years of championing feminist writing (Amanda Craig Independent on Sunday)
Ten fascinating biographies for the price of one, and an exuberant dig into a decade which we've rather grassed over. Her Brilliant Career is a vivid, witty, affectionate page-turner about some amazing lost heroines (Melanie Reid The Times)
Rachel Cooke's fantastic, clever, funny, illuminating book about 10 remarkable women (India Knight Sunday Times)
What a treat . . . Thank you, Rachel Cooke, for finding, and judiciously commenting on, these women insouciant of feminism and strangers to guilt (which 'had not yet been invented'); for succinct scene-setting of the 1950s with phrases like 'Cue mambo on the juke-box'; and for never once using the dread word "feisty" (The Oldie)
Cooke is one of the outstanding British journalists of her generation (Sebastian Faulks New York Times)
Cooke writes with such zest about such interesting lives (Guardian)
Her Brilliant Career is a corrective, a hurrah for the oldies. Despite barriers that dwarf those that persist today, plenty of gutsy women rode the Fifties unthwarted and unclenched. Ms Cooke takes an exuberant gallop through the careers and private lives of ten of them in Britain (The Economist)
Women and the Fifties: you will be amazed.` A gallery of vividly drawn portraits - witty, poignant, inspiriting - that opens up a new front in our understanding of the "lost" Fifties' - David Kynaston, author of Modernity BritainSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The author was also inclined to go off at a tangent about other people. Although linked to the subject, detail of their background added little and was generally an unwelcome distraction. There were several factual inaccuracies and these undermined my belief in some of the supposed facts. Whilst the women and other topics in the last chapters selected were interesting enough, I was left without any sense of how they may have shaped or indeed defined the 1950s.
I don't underestimate the effort involved in putting this book together and I did finish it. But unlike David Kynaston's epic works on many aspects of this period, this one was more light and fluffy and far less engaging.
Besides the ten women who are the main subjects of the book, there are a whole load more in the introduction (which in itself tempts the reader to find out more about them online). Then there is a great bibliography of novels by women in the 50s/early 60s which is well worth exploring. This book is bursting with information.
My favourite chapters were the ones on Nancy Spain, Joan Werner Laurie and Sheila Van Damm; on Betty and Muriel Box; and on Rose Heilbron QC which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the others; these were women who worked in fields I know more about. It is interesting to have the biographies of all the women leading up to their significant achievements in the 50s and a little subsequent detail. The format works.
You find yourself thinking, “Why didn’t I know more about these women?” The answer is obvious. This book is a real encouragement to spread the word, though, not because the author indulges in any polemic to do so, but because it is so readable and makes you realise that they deserve to be talked about; that youngsters should know more about what these women did because of their significance for the development of modern British society. And to show that such things are possible.
I certainly hope that Rachel Cooke continues to produce more books like this; hopefully more detailed and longer biographies of significant women in this engagingly readable style which sacrifices no detail and analysis and yet is so comfortable.
Some I had never heard of, like Patience Gray (and I have now bought one of her books), some are old favourites (like Margery Fish, and I was moved to re-read "We made a Garden*). Some I remember simply as names of the time like Nancy Spain and Sheila van Damm. All are well-researched, their lives put over with considerable brio, a good read.
I immediately bought 3 more copies as birthday presents for like-minded friends, all went down really well.
Please could this writer do something similar for the next decade.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was looking forward to this book but the style and punctuation was so appalling I couldn't read beyond page 20.
Strongly suggest you 'look inside' before buying.
Fascinating, enlightening and often extraordinary insight into pioneering women of yesteryear. Wholly absorbing and deeply well researched.Published 15 months ago by deepversedandshallow
so enjoyable & light to read. Northumberland connection & I'd visit the places mentioned. Some of more personal interest than others but a good selection of women.Published 19 months ago by Lindsey Clare Gee-Turner
Such a revelation: good enough to send me find out more about the women here.Published 19 months ago by Happy feet