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Common People Reviews

Common People by Kit de Waal, Malorie Blackman, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Lisa McInerney

Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers

Kit de Waal, Malorie Blackman, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Lisa McInerney

3.90 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Unbound
Publisher: Unbound
Publication date: 1 May 2019
ISBN: 9781783527458

A celebration of working-class voices, bringing together established and emerging writers including Kit de Waal, Malorie Blackman, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Louise Doughty and Lisa McInerney

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
4 stars out of 5
Caroline Sanderson
8 Feb 2019

"I'm proud to be a supporter of this terrific collection"

I'm proud to be a supporter of this terrific collection—"written in celebration not apology"—which brings together 33 established and emerging writers, who in their very different ways reclaim and redefine what it means to be working-class. Among the contributors are Lisa McInerney on escaping the ghetto of people's assumptions; Cathy Rentzenbrink on being a darts champion; Daljit Nagra on an enduring friendship; and Chris McCrudden on why shy bairns get nowt.


4 stars out of 5
Barbara Ellen
3 Jun 2019

"a collection fizzing with originality and energy"

While Dave O’Brien’s essay on class and publishing drives home the miracle of Common People even existing, the myriad themes (darts, pool, libraries, prison, cats, Stalin, strikes, violence, peaches, racism, love, pain, courage, dreams) showcase the diversity and talent of working-class voices, in a collection fizzing with originality and energy.

4 stars out of 5
23 May 2019

"Edited by Kit de Waal, these essays, memoirs, stories and poems from established and new writers come straight from the heart"

There are of course common threads – Margaret Thatcher, childhood, the barriers and snobbery that limit access to the publishing industry, the way that working-class writers who do find success are assumed to have somehow become middle class. But what shines through is the variety and quality of the short pieces – whether the subject is darts, ageing, funerals or tinned peaches, there’s something to treasure every few pages.

4 stars out of 5
Nina Pottell
5 May 2019

"an important platform for inspiring and often unheard voices"

This unique collection of short stories about growing up working class is an important platform for inspiring and often unheard voices.

4 stars out of 5
4 May 2019

"Kit de Waal gathers 33 pieces which illuminate social identity, origins and opportunity"

The most enjoyable pieces in the volume are probably the most unusual. The Galway writer Lisa McInerney opens the collection with a funny and astute reflection on the slippery nature of class definition, distinguishing between origins, aesthetics and achievement concluding that “All a working-class person needs to become middle class is to be good at something”, a means of diminishing their success and deflecting middle-class unease. I enjoyed Katy Massey’s fierce pride in her mother’s achievements as madam of a brothel in Leeds in the 1980s, the entrepreneur being an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and Cynthia Payne. The establishment was called Aristotle’s, and the author worked there until Yorkshire Police closed it down after a raid. Her mother’s employees, sensible, underprivileged working women, proved inspirational and a means of helping her negotiate the complicated transition to adulthood.

3 stars out of 5
1 May 2019

"they’re all sharp and bright"

Common People casts a kinder light on working-class life. It consists of thirty-four mostly autobiographical short pieces, twenty-five by women, about lives they consider ‘working class’, or at any rate ‘ordinary’, not ‘posh’. Some of the contributors are accomplished, prize-winning authors, a few with degrees in creative writing and maisonettes in Tufnell Park, but it is to the editor’s credit that half the pieces are by previously unpublished writers, and that they’re all sharp and bright.