Social Realism & Kitchen Sink Realism Books Appeal – Kitchen Sink Authors Of The 1950s & 1960s

In the mid 1980s, whilst at school, I discovered a genre of literature. This was exclusive to those books penned by a collection of authors known as the “Angry Young Men”.  In addition with thanks to further encouragement shown by Mr Thompson (my old English Literature teacher), I was to become an avid collector and reader of Kitchen Sink Realism books.

For over thirty years it’s become a labour of love of mine to source many of these out of print social realism / Kitchen Sink Realism books. The first book I read was Stan Barstow’s A Kind Of Loving at the age of14. By October 1985, my interest was to further ignite. The novel to film adaption of Room At The Top by John Braine was to be broadcast on tv.

It’s since this day that my obsession with reading this genre of books continues. This incidentally remains to date, my favourite all time novel and film. For over four decades, my love of these books follows me into my mid 50s. In conclusion it simply has become a long term (if not a life long) love affair of mine!

My Kitchen Sink Realism Beginnings … How It All Began

My journey, with Kitchen Sink Realism, began nearly 41 years ago in the Spring of 1983. It is what I term one of my life long love affairs. It began with A Kind Of Loving by Stan Barstow and then reading the wonderful novel of There Is A Happy Land by Keith Waterhouse.


A Kind Of Loving By Stan Barstow


A Kind Of Loving by Stan Barstow
A Kind Of Loving by Stan Barstow. Novel & tv series originally transmitted in 1982. Copyright Jayne Thomas.


Film Adaptaion – A Kind Of Loving Trailer 1962

Oct 7, 2014
Video Detective

TV Adaptation – A Kind Of Loving Trailer 1982

Dec 10, 2015


An introduction by my then ever encouraging English Literature teacher, Guy Thompson. Guy was a wonderful teacher and one of life’s encouragers and indeed was the catalyst to why my love of Kitchen Sink Realism began as he introduced my class, alpha one, to some of the Kitchen Sink Literature. This led me onto reading Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse also.

Billy Liar By Keith Waterhouse

There Is A Happy Land & Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
There Is A Happy Land & Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. Copyright Jayne Thomas.


Billy Liar, the hilariously funny story (on the surface) of Billy Fisher. Based in the fictional town of Stradhoughton in Yorkshire. Billy, who lives in his own fantasy world of Ambrosia with dreams of moving to London to become a writer. Trying to escape his “living in a fish bowl life” and his mundane existence. Which he does, by lying and romanticising, but is to catch up with him. The film was directed by John Schlesinger and went onto be released in the UK, 60 years ago this August in 1963.

Consisting of a stellar cast including Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Gwendolyn Watts, Helen Fraser and Wilfred Pickles, this film never fails in making me laugh. I have watched Billy Liar numerous times throughout those forty years and still to this day have an overwhelming fondness for it.

Billy Liar Official Trailer

Dec 23, 2014

The Appeal Of Kitchen Sink Realism Books

What’s the appeal for my obsession of Kitchen Sink Realism books and drama? If I am to be totally honest and first of all, this probably stems from where I grew up. My origins began in a predominately working class area of the North East of England. Some of these books which were later to become film adaptations are set in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Many of these localities I know well or are at least familiar with. Because of this, these books give me a sense of nostalgia every time I visit them.

Also equally coupled with the fact, is when embarking on this literature, I was heavily influenced by many aspects of the 1960s. Which still continues to this date. The reason being that I was a Mod girl in the 1980s.

British New Wave Authors - John Braine, Stan Barstow & Nell Dunn
Four of my favourite reads. Room At The Top, Life At The Top, A Kind Of Loving & Up The Junction. Copyright Jayne Thomas.

The Mod subculture drawing parallels, I feel, with some of the characters that we go onto meet within this literature. The drive of these characters to have the ability to adapt, evolve and who refuse to conform to what many portray as the norm. To express themselves in a way which they feel comfortable.

However whilst these are the contributing factors of the attraction to being an avid collector and reader of Kitchen Sink Realism literature, they are not the main stand alone factor. The appeal for me personally, also stems from being able to understand, relate and empathise with the situations which many of the characters face within each book.

Social Factors

The common denominator each and everyone of these novels and plays has, is that they are perfectly indicative of a variety of the social situations that the British working classes were met with in post-war Britain. This is regardless of their location setting.

Each story has it’s own unique individual undertone. Each story also combining the grittiness and rawness in addressing important social every day factors. Factors such as class distinction, extra marital affairs, race relations and alcoholism. In addition homelessness, homosexuality, abortion and unwanted pregnancy.

Many of these characters, I feel I personally almost know. In addition also some, I cannot help but admire. Purely because how they deal with their individual situations. Ranging from social pressure and poverty to the sacrificing of long term happiness to gain financial stability and success.

Especially relevant of all these books and their exclusivity is how these characters adapt and deal with these social hardships as a whole. But most importantly in how they show strength of character and will battle on regardless, despite whatever life continues to throw at them.


Kitchen Sink Realism Authors

Whilst not exhaustive, the following list of some of my favourite authors and playwrights.

Male authors and playwrights:

  • Alan Sillitoe
  • Barry Hines
  • Bill Naughton
  • Colin Wilson
  • David Storey
  • ER Braithwaite
  • Keith Waterhouse
  • Kingsley Amis
  • John Osborne
  • John Braine
  • Stan Barstow

Female authors

  • Gillian Freeman
  • Lynne Reid Banks
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Margaret Forster
  • Nell Dunn
  • Penelope Mortimer
  • Shelagh Delaney

© 2017 – 2024, Jayne Thomas. All rights reserved.

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