From Publishers Weekly
This light, engaging book spends the years from 1920 to 1930 with Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber. Without directly tying them together by any theme (other than that they were all "blessed with the gift of laughter"), Meade moves easily among the women, bringing to life four very different individuals and the worlds they moved in, although Ferber suffers somewhat from being surrounded by more colorful contemporaries. Parker, appropriately enough, is introduced with the words "[I]t couldn't be worse" (she was being canned by Vanity Fair
) while Millay is evoked with the offhand observation, "[S]leeping with the boy from Vanity Fair
was probably a bad idea. But Vincent did it anyway." The emphasis is on the personalities and personal lives of the women, but Meade (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
) fairly seamlessly weaves professional ambitions, successes and frustrations into their stories. (It's also fascinating to be reminded that both Ferber and Millay, who could not have been more different in writing style or personality, both enjoyed a good deal of commercial success.) Serious students of the Roaring '20s or of the writers may not learn anything new here; they may also find the interior monologue of the narrative ("Bunny, poor sweet Bunny, so naïve about the opposite sex") grating. And the story stops, rather than ends, in 1930. But for the curious nonexpert, the gossipy, personal tone makes for an enjoyable and informative read. 2 photo inserts not seen by PW
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The four 1920s women writers Meade focuses on were legends in their own time--and what a time it was. Encapsulating the razzle-dazzle and optimism of the Jazz Age, Meade covers each year of the wild and woolly decade, beginning with Dorothy Parker's firing from Vanity Fair
, and embracing Zelda Fitzgerald and her wild drinking and dancing in fountains alongside her husband, F. Scott. Across town on West Nineteenth Street, Edna St. Vincent Millay's fingers flew over the keyboard of a featherweight Corona No. 3 (a gift from her married lover, James Lawyer), turning out "Renascence," the poem that would make her famous. With fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber, those three inspired and intrepid women were free-spirited "celebrities" before the term was coined, in an era whose energy and tumult became legendary historically and literarily. Their unusual and indelible lives, and scintillating milieu, are vividly captured by Meade in this fast-paced and informative group biography. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved