Most of what I know about Scotland's recent history has come from reading fiction. When I read James Robertson's And The Land Lay Still I was hugely enlightened to the kind of country that my grandparents and greatgrandparents knew. So far, my Scottish Literature challenge has been adding to what little I know of the history and politics of this past century. Reading The Liberation of Celia Kahn was no different.
Celia herself grows several years as the novel ends in 1923. She's initially naive, and quite happy to go along with the life she's expected to have - housemaking, marrying into a wealthy Jewish family. But as she grows up she encounters several people who change her ideas about the world completely, not least an Agnes Calder, who introduces her into the world of feminist politics. In 1915, feminism was a completely different ball game - no vote, and lack of contraception - so there was a lot of work to do. Really, it's an exciting world because people were much more willing to fight for the causes they believed in. But being a modern woman conflicted often with Celia's Jewish family ideas. By the end of the book, Celia manages a way of understanding herself as human, female, and Jewish. The decision she makes towards the end confused me a little, because it almost seemed contrary to the strong woman she had proven she was. Not that it was a bad decision necessarily, but it felt like running away almost. Still, through all difficulties Celia copes, and it was enjoyable to see her grow and learn.
There's a lot going on in The Liberation of Celia Kahn, but it's a good read. There were points where the dialogue felt awkward, not quite genuine, but mostly the narrative was colourful and thoughtful. Another interesting read, and I think I learned a lot.
I read The Liberation of Celia Kahn as part of my Scottish Literature challenge. You can learn more about the book and the author and J. David Simons' website.