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Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation Hardcover – January 14, 2014


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Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374156085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374156084
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As the 1920s dawned, the Western world anticipated a “decade of change,” British dance critic and biographer Mackrell observes, and “that promise was especially tantalizing for women.” Hence the convention-blasting flappers, intent on taking charge of every aspect of their lives, from hairstyles and hemlines to sex and careers. Mackrell portrays, with vivid facts, sexual candor, and incisive analysis, six intrepid, stylish, headline-grabbing women artists who exemplify the flapper revolution. Beautiful and pampered Lady Diana Cooper cast privilege aside and became a daring and revered actor. Intransigent, bookish Nancy Cunard, the daughter of a British lord and a coldhearted, wealthy American, found a spiritual holdfast in African American culture. Exiled from her luxurious St. Petersburg life, Tamara de Lempicka transformed herself into an art deco portrait painter of Paris’ glamorous elite. Southern daredevil Tallulah Bankhead took to the stage and ignited a rabid fan base among working-class women. Celebrity flapper Zelda Fitzgerald fueled her husband, F. Scott’s, fiction. Bewitching performer Josephine Baker of St. Louis galvanized Paris as an erotic and electrifying embodiment of the Jazz Age. For all their grit, fire, and adoration, however, each of these audacious women found that the flapper life was unsustainable and gender equality but a dream. Avidly researched and deeply inquisitive, Mackrell’s prodigious group portrait is spectacularly dramatic and thought-provoking. --Donna Seaman

Review

"Mackrell, a dance critic, loves a romp, and tales of her high-flying subjects lose none of their adrenaline in the retelling. Her writing is bright and nimble, but she’s also astute enough to delve beyond the flash and dazzle, the public illusions cast to hide private insecurity, pain and frustration…" –Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, The New York Times Book Review

"Judith Mackrell's Flappers is a juicy, energetic exploration of six dazzling iconoclasts who all flared to fame in the Roaring '20s. . . Flappers reminds us of the enormous, lasting cultural impact of gutsy, vibrant women who managed to shine in unexpected ways. In jumping between six dishy, hyper-charged, often frenetic life stories in one lively volume, Mackrell not only captures ‘the restlessness of a generation’ — she does so in a fast-paced, no-holds-barred form particularly well suited to the restlessness of this generation." —Heller McAlpin, Los Angeles Times

"The book is beautifully structured. . . [a] reader-friendly history, adorned with fascinating details. . . Ms. Mackrell doesn't force theories. She lays out the lives with a deft strategy of parallels and overlaps so that connections and comparisons float up."—Laura Jacobs, Wall Street Journal

"Sprawling and addictive. . ."—Anne Helen Petersen, Slate

"This spellbinding group biography tells the stories — sometimes independent, often intertwined — of six women of the 1920s who epitomized the word flapper, in all its complicated meanings. . . Mackrell’s book bubbles with the giddy energy of the era, filled with parties, affairs, cocktails, and cocaine — and captures its inevitable dissolution as well."—Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe

"Captivating . . . . Much has been written about these avatars and their era that ended with The Crash and prefigured the Sixties, but Mackrell, a winning stylist, presents them afresh. She makes us want to know more. Any author who does that has served her subjects and the reader well."—Jane Sumner, The Dallas Morning News

"Mackrell portrays, with vivid facts, sexual candor, and incisive analysis, six intrepid, stylish, headline-grabbing women artists who exemplify the flapper revolution. . . Avidly researched and deeply inquisitive, Mackrell’s prodigious group portrait is spectacularly dramatic and thought-provoking." —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Fascinating and compulsively readable. . . Mackrell’s fabulous Flappers lovingly captures the manic glitzy dream girls of the 1920s, paving the way for their feminist granddaughters." —Catherine Hollis, BookPage

"Sober and sure-footed." —The Times Literary Supplement

"Flappers eruditely illuminates the daring lives of a group of 1920s Jazz Age trailblazers." —Elle

"In a cool, glittery style that mirrors the roaring decade she delves into, British dance critic Mackrell (Bloomsbury Ballerina) breathes new life into the stories of a few of the most culturally important women of the 1920s. . .Through these marvelous portrayals, Mackrell reminds us why these women continue to fascinate and why their lives had such impact." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With guts and swagger, the six nervy and glamorous women of Flappers took risks, defied convention, and defined the Jazz Age. Judith Mackrell’s rollicking, poignant, and trenchant history of their yearning for equality, their romantic and erotic adventures, and their struggle to ‘live as I like always’ is sprinkled with stardust and feels thoroughly modern. Flappers is a gripping look at the complicated challenges facing women in the Downton Abbey era.” —Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life

 

“What an extraordinary, high-level hen party this book is! Lively and elegant. The old feminist maxim was that the personal was political, but in these women’s lives the reverse is equally true: the political—the twists and turns of the twentieth century, its changing attitudes and movements—is personal.” —Amanda Vaill, author of Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy; A Lost Generation Love Story

Flappers is all good, dirty fun . . . Mackrell is an engaging storyteller with a deceptively light touch.” —Cressida Connolly, The Daily Telegraph

“It’s in the bringing together of these highly diverse women under the ‘flapper’ umbrella that Mackrell’s real genius lies, showing us the relationship between an age and the very different individuals who shone during it.” —Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday

“Judith Mackrell can tell a story—and she has some very provocative stories to tell. The myths that for the past century have surrounded the six legendary women at the center of Flappers are nothing at all compared to the reality revealed in this fascinating book.” —Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition


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Customer Reviews

Very glad that I purchased and read this amazing book !
Bruce Miller
I particularly found the discussions of Zelda Fitzgerald, Nancy Cunard and Josephine Baker more detailed and nuanced than what I have read in the past.
Maureen Murdock
These women lead amazing lives and were very courageous and unique.
Carmen Ortiz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Does artistic "genius" in a person evolve from some sort of emotional unbalance? How often do we find those who are acclaimed "geniuses" in artistic matters quite unable to function within the limits placed on them by polite society? Would a Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald or a Tullulah Bankhead - among others - be seen today as anything less than "high maintenance" personalities? In her new book, "Flappers", British author Judith Mackrell takes an engaging at six such women, all who came of age in the 1920's, and writes how that one decade influenced them and how they, in turn, influenced the decade.

Mackrell six subjects are British aristocrats Lady Diana Manners and Nancy Cunard, Russian/Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, and three Americans; Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tullulah Bankhead. She traces their lives and loves prior to the 1920's, but really examines how each, in her own way and through her own artistic instincts, made Paris and London the centers of the new artistic world, with New York close behind.

London's West End was the scene of the American Tallulah Bankhead's earliest theatrical triumph, while British actress Nancy Cunard gained fame on Broadway in New York City.

However, Paris, in 1920, was already being seen as the main new capital of art. Many Americans and Britons had moved there to take advantage of the good financial exchange rate and to steep themselves in the literary and artistic works being produced. American black soldiers from the Great War had stayed in Paris; the racial discrimination faced in France was much less compared to that back home. The European Jazz scene was centered in Paris; those ex-patriot soldiers were a defining influence on the music played.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Miller on April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I loved it ! It was entertaining without being too academic and well researched with all of the footnotes and comments where appropriate. The book was an in depth look at 6 important woman of the post war, 1920's period. It was especially noteworthy that the Epilogue at the end of the book completed their life story. I don't think anyone could have predicted the endings to each of their lives, especially Zelda Fitzgerald ! This was a book that I honestly couldn't put down as it was totally fascinating. I loved the spicyness of their personal stories as their relationships and love lives were examined in detail (especially Tamara). It was a wild time and the luminaries whose personal stories were depicted were truly amazing. I would enjoy reading more about Duff Cooper as he was a story in itself. His relationship with Diane Cooper certainly begged for a follow up biography of his interesting life and career. Very glad that I purchased and read this amazing book ! Fabulous !
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Angel Fire on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely loved this book. Granted, the author couldn't go into full blown biographies when she's writing about six different women. But she gives enough info that, if you're so inclined, you can read their individual biographies somewhere else. I love the 20's and Ms. Mackrell captures what it was like for women in an era that allowed them to break free from the constraints of both the Victorian and Edwardian age.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Imogenekatz on March 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Detailed composite provided plenty of information on each subject and didn't drag. Good job with bringing each personality to the fore, so that the reader became a close observer in the same room. Between the historical backdrop of London, Paris and the U.S. of the 20s and 30s and the family and professional circumstances surrounding each woman, this was a well-rounded and highly informative read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By gina selent on February 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent and compelling insight into the lives and trials of these very flawed yet fascinating women! Embrace your inner flapper.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sue on February 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading about the dramatically different upbringing of the six women. Their success and failures. I would have liked a little more information
of the 1920's era. The book portrays them all as victims of their own doing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Wright on March 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm savoring this book! Without role models or any guidelines on how to do it...these women lived their lives by their own terms! I'd heard of threel of them but the other three are delightful discoveries. If you're interested in history or women's studies....or if you like people with courage...this book will please you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Mark Hilliard on March 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written and exciting to read. It is one of those books that takes you back to the time period and sets you down at the table with Zelda and the others.
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