The Liberation of Celia Kahn by J. David Simons

Book Review by Rebecca Isherwood | 27 Jan 2011
  • The Liberation of Celia Kahn
Book title: The Liberation of Celia Kahn
Author: J. David Simons

Set against the background of rent strikes, anti-war sentiment and a revolution brewing in Russia, a young Jewish woman from the Gorbals gains her first taste for protest and female solidarity. Distraction from her crusade comes with a love affair, exposing her to the prospect of a new life in communal settlements taking root in British-mandate Palestine. The Liberation of Celia Kahn is not only about a young woman trying to find her way in the world of men, but also a story of the new world for women opened up by socialism and contraception, in the early years of the twentieth century.

These themes of immigration, family and community were handled in Simons’ debut, The Credit Draper, and are still prominent here, though through Celia’s eyes we focus more closely on issues of gender and class. Simons’ ability to capture the essence of his protagonist will really strike a chord; Celia’s pain and challenges are sensitively rendered, her passion and stoicism enchanting. A quietly brilliant book, Simons’ writing brings up interesting questions of sex, religion and morality, how our attitudes have progressed in the last century and how there might still be room for improvement. [Rebecca Isherwood]


Release date 2 Feb. Published by Five Leaves. Cover price £8.99