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I have monitored the progress of this book since its inception with some interest. In fact I had hoped to be able to submit some of my own life writing for inclusion, but was prevented from doing so by the gatekeepers at New Writing North. As a working-class writer, being rejected is my default position. Unbound are therefore only one in a long list of publishers who have turned down my work. What you should know is that this collection is heavily weighted towards female writers: 23 out of 34 to be precise. However, in terms of the quality of the writing on display it’s a considerably more accomplished product than the earlier book “Know Your Place”. The variety on offer is particularly satisfying and any self-respecting working-class reader or writer should add it to their collection. What comes across time and again in many of these splendid essays and memoirs is a vivid sense of place. The cynic in me does wonder whether this is simply an example of the middle-class publishing industry flagellating itself as a public relations exercise. Nevertheless, I have this book to thank, since in June of this year I decided to self-publish my own collection of working-class life writing, so it would be fair to say that “Common People” has been quite an inspiration and driving force in that respect.
I do not normally read on the train but this anthology had me moving from the first story to the last in delight. It has provided view points that I had not considered and shared experiences which made me laugh as well as think. An excellent read which I would happily recommend.
An incredible collection of essays, poems and autobiographical short stories, Common People will make you smile (or wince) in recognition. Ranging from funny to informative, with plenty of sharp observation and a good dose of not always happy nostalgia (remember cutting mould off the bread?), this is essential reading for those who have been there, and those teenagers who are still there and who don't believe they can enter the creative industries. Books like these prove it can be done, and that you deserve a place at the table even if mummy and daddy didn't feed you with a silver spoon. It is unusual for a collection, especially a collection with so many new voices, to be of such a high standard throughout. Kit de Waal has woven a special magic here to pull so many disparate threads into such a glorious tapestry. Not to be missed. Please do the same for a (younger) teenage audience.
A breath of fresh air to come across so many talented writers from working class backgrounds. If course that isn't as monochrome as it sounds for there is everything here from political activism to criminal tendencies. But throughout there is a recognisable voice of simple humanity without the vaguest hint of distaste for life's necessities.
This is writing at its best. Its exploration of the theme of class, and its championing of writers from working-class backgrounds is fresh and original. It helped me reconnect with my childhood and rethink the questions and doubts I've had ever since. Excellent.
The thread of these stories is the first person narrative; they burn extremely bright and none of them are misery memoirs. White, black and Asian tales give this diversity. Serious issues of politics, domestic abuse and drugs are parallel with lovely tales of music, love, respect and the nuances of working class life. An excellent collection that I will return too.
An anthology showing a richness of ideas, emotions and experiences that is sadly lacking from mainstream publishing. Funny, sad, moving, heartbreaking, hopeful, are all terms that do not do justice the the writers in this book. It brought home to me the necessity to honour one's roots, to be proud of the sacrifices made by your family and to never feel shame.
I bought this as a gift (and then for myself) and it was very well received – Unbound publishers and their crowdfunding campaigns are making space for some very important books to be produced. This book brings to forefront important, underrepresented narratives, and is a fascinating and beautiful read. I devoured it in one sitting and am looking forward to reading it again!