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Tastes of Honey Reviews

Tastes of Honey by Selina Todd

Tastes of Honey

The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution

Selina Todd

4.00 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 29 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9781784740825

'Anyone who values what is best in British theatre and film will want to join Selina Todd as she digs deep into the brilliance of Delaney's work - and her character. Delaney's strong female characters - teenager Jo and her single mother, Helen - asserted that working-class women wanted more than suburban housewifery.

  • The ObserverBook of the Week
4 stars out of 5
Kate Kellaway
25 Aug 2019

"Historian Selina Todd makes an unassailable case for the Salford writer’s place in British theatre history"

Yet these are minor troubles and do not spoil a story that reminds us what an inspiration Delaney has been to many – including Morrissey who said: “at least 50% of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney”, and Jeanette Winterson, who likened Delaney’s work in the 50s to “a lighthouse pointing the way and warning about the rocks underneath” – and Selina Todd herself, moved to write this splendid and illuminating book.


4 stars out of 5
29 Oct 2019

"Tastes of Honey is a biography of a writer whose output has – at times – been overshadowed by distorted versions of her story. "

Tastes of Honey is a biography of a writer whose output has – at times – been overshadowed by distorted versions of her story. By carefully emphasizing the radical qualities of Delaney’s oeuvre, and challenging many of the clichés that make up her mythology, Selina Todd offers a more nuanced view. As Caroline Steedman wrote in Landscapes for a Good Woman, “the stories that people tell themselves in order to explain how they got to the place they currently inhabit are often in deep and ambiguous conflict with the official interpretive devices of a culture”. Recognizable narratives about working-class women have been absent from the history books – we need to look elsewhere for them. Shelagh Delaney’s story is a good place to start.

4 stars out of 5
1 Oct 2019

"Todd presents a warm but balanced view of a woman who made her own choices."

This book is not a period piece describing life in the bleak dark Fifties, after which female writers emerged into the light. Todd presents a warm but balanced view of a woman who made her own choices. Her work benefits from excellent digging in the BBC archives and many detailed interviews, which have to compensate for a lack of documentation (the notoriously private Delaney destroyed most of her own papers). Todd’s conclusion is that the dearth of working-class writers today is not due to a lack of talent but results instead from obstacles to realising it. She finishes with references to working-class women writers who came to prominence later, such as Andrea Dunbar, whose career was influenced by Delaney.

4 stars out of 5
25 Sep 2019

"Todd’s sparky evocation of her personality has been shaped by posthumous conversations with her friends and daughter"

“Whatever happened to Shelagh Delaney?” journalists were asking as early as 1963.

Selina Todd gives us as good an answer and as full a picture as we’re likely to get – because Delaney loathed being pigeonholed or pinned down. She couldn’t stand reporters’ disbelief that a 19-year-old should know where the brothels were in Salford or that a young working-class woman should be more intelligently self-aware than most Oxbridge graduates... The occasional soft-pedalling is more than balanced, however, by Todd’s vivid portrayal of Delaney as a young woman fiercely alive in her time. As a social historian, she demonstrates the many factors, other than sheer talent and determination, that went into the “making” of Shelagh Delaney. This was Britain’s great post-war, social-democratic moment. For Delaney, as for countless working-class children of her generation, the unprecedented feeling that society was prepared to invest in her future was life-changing. With Finney and Osborne, the Beatles, David Hockney – the list goes on – she was part of the new wave of working-class talent that during the Fifties and Sixties transformed every area of creative life, from theatre and literature to art, music and fashion.