Review: Rebel Writers by Celia Brayfield

Title: Rebel Writers – The Accidental Feminists

Author: Celia Brayfield

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

The Blurb

In London in 1958, a play by a 19-year-old redefined women’s writing in Britain. It also began a movement that would change women’s lives forever. The play was A Taste of Honey and the author, Shelagh Delaney, was the first in a succession of young women who wrote about their lives with an honesty that dazzled the world. They rebelled against sexism, inequality and prejudice and in doing so challenged the existing definitions of what writing and writers should be. Bypassing the London cultural elite, their work reached audiences of millions around the world, paved the way for profound social changes and laid the foundations of second-wave feminism. 

After Delaney came Edna O’Brien, Lynne Reid-Banks, Charlotte Bingham, Nell Dunn, Virginia Ironside and Margaret Forster; an extraordinarily disparate group who were united in their determination to shake the traditional concepts of womanhood in novels, films, television, essays and journalism. They were as angry as the Angry Young Men, but were also more constructive and proposed new ways to live and love in the future. They did not intend to become a literary movement but they did, inspiring other writers to follow. Not since the Brontës have a group of young women been so determined to tell the truth about what it is like to be a girl. 

In this biographical study, the acclaimed author, Celia Brayfield, tells their story for the first time.

The Review

Rebel Writers is a great book that looks at the lives of important feminist writers and the impact that they had. It focuses on Shelagh Delany, Edna O’Brien, Lynne Reid-Banks, Charlotte Billingham, Nell Dun, Virginia Ironside, Margaret Forster and throws in a little bit about Francoise Sagan to boot.

What is great about Rebel Writers is that if you don’t know who some of the writers are (and I must admit that there were three on the above list that I didn’t know anything about) you come away at the end of the book knowing about them and more importantly understanding the cultural impact that they had. Even more interesting is the social history discussed in this novel and the way the patriarchy really tried to oppress these young ladies in a multitude of ways. Their feisty nature and the changing world around them allowed them to grow and retain their dignity if not necessarily always giving them equal rights.

Whether read for entertainment purposes or as an academic text Celia Brayfield’s look at these writers is fascinating and definitely worth a read.

Rebel Writers – The Accidental Feminists by Celia Brayfield is available now.

For more information regarding Celia Brayfield (@highcixiety) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury Publishing (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit

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