A celebration of women who helped shape modern Britain is as entertaining as it is enlightening... Cathy Newman has written a bloody brilliant book... It turns out that Newman, a Channel 4 broadcaster, is a riveting teller of history... These fascinating but unknown women’s stories would be lost if books such as this didn’t document them... There are enjoyable anecdotes aplenty. But it’s not all a comfortable read. The detailed execution of the wartime nurse, Edith Cavell, by German firing squad, is harrowing. You might know her statue in Trafalgar Square; you may not have known her story... Newman is a brilliant writer; each chapter throws up something even more interesting than the last and the prose shifts seamlessly between them... I could read a whole second volume.
There is much in Newman’s book to entertain and inspire. She resurrects names that have been forgotten from “the long 20th century”: 1880 to the present...Despite these gripes, the project is admirable in its intentions and the facts and anecdotes are expertly marshalled. I laughed, I underlined, I read bits out to anyone who would listen.
Newman’s title misquotes, and reclaims Theresa May’s quip that she is a “bloody difficult woman” (as Ken Clarke suggested). The book’s chronology of exceptional women spans several centuries, from the 1800s to today. The style is poppy and informal, but the information is densely packed... Bloody Brilliant Women doesn’t ignore the petty sexism such pioneers have faced, yet by focusing on their triumphs Newman highlights women’s power rather than lack of it, as well as its ebb and flow over the centuries: the surprising number of freedoms enjoyed before the prudish Victorian period; the opportunities opened up by the First World War that closed after it... The breadth of her study is thrilling. Occasionally, though, its sheer expansiveness can feel limiting. Newman packs in so much that some stories are reduced to just a few lines. Still, perhaps the best way to look at the book is as an introduction rather than an exhaustive history.