Rachel Cooke

The Observer

Rachel Cooke, is an award winning and acclaimed writer and critic, as well as the author of Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties (Virago) and recently Kitchen Person - Notes on Cooking & Eating (W&N). A journalist whose work ranges from politics to visual art, it is fair to say that books are probably her first love and she brings authority and deep knowledge to her criticism in this area.

Her reviews are always illuminating, but her breadth of knowledge is worn lightly and her reviews are just a delight to read; never a dull moment, hugely entertaining, sometimes mischievous, always probing. She is also the bravest of reviewers who speaks as she finds, puncturing egos where appropriate. Our readers love her reviews and they regularly hit over 50,000 pageviews online, with, in many cases, extremely strong attention times relative to length as was the case for her review of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare, with which she had a lot of fun: ’Prince Harry of Wales, his descendant, is actually a classic pistol-whirling 19th-century aristocrat always spoiling for a fight, mowing down the enemy in Afghanistan, yomping through Wales with trench foot, trekking the North Pole with a frost-bitten penis that he later cocoons in a “bespoke cock cushion” (an apt description, perhaps, of his Goop-like existence in Montecito).’

Her wit and way with words makes her a must read. She is shrewd, insightful, honest to a fault as with her review of Lauren Elkin’s Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art…‘In her hands, vexed territory is oddly flattened out, its provocations mere mole hills on the way to nowhere. But in truth, I was more often baffled than bored.’

Books matter to her and when they hit the mark she is generous with praise as with Rose Tremain’s recent novel Absolutely and Forever which she loved: ‘each page breathes a kind of magic, a sigh of enchantment.’