- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition edition (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
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation Hardcover – January 14, 2014
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*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
“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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Top customer reviews
Lady Diana (Manners) Cooper posed nude for artists, married against her parents wishes, and worked as an actress to support her husband’s political career. Nancy Cunard, another upper class Brit, wrote poetry, ran her own printing press to publish Modernist, Surrealist, and Dada literature, developed a striking personal fashion based on African artifacts, and was muse and sometimes lover to many authors of the era. Tallulah Bankhead and Zelda Fitzgerald were southern girls and Alabama neighbors on similar quests for excitement, wider horizons, and artistic recognition. Josephine Baker, a poor black girl born in the slums of St. Louis, danced her way into the heart of Paris. Tamara de Lempicka, a Russian aristocrat displaced and penniless after the Russian Revolution, reinvented herself in Paris as an artist with a distinct and early Art Deco style--it’s her self portrait that’s on the cover of the book.
Each woman has two in-depth, sympathetic but not hagiographic, and thoroughly interesting chapters devoted to her doings before and then during the 1920’s, so their lives during the 20’s are shown in context and it’s not hard to keep track of who is who. An Epilogue sketches the remainder of their stories, from the 1930’s until their deaths. Captivating as both a group biography and a history of its time, Flappers has added several books to my TBR list because I want to read more about several of the women--all six are intriguing but Tamara, Josephine, and Nancy really charmed and captured me.
Mackrell spoke to me of my own mother. She was born in 1913, saved high school lunch money to buy high heels, fought her parents to Bob her hair, started smoking, learned to drive a car, earned a scholarship to a business school and became a bank teller. She shocked her 3 sisters who, throughout their lives, defaulted to marriage and motherhood, staying at home, and never doing any of those things.
Mackrell's six courageous "flappers" were determined to live as they liked. They were all supremely talented, though not particularly well-educated. Five began with financial or personal support, but one came from the ghetto and was in every way alone. They all achieved international stardom in the 20s, only to have their stars fade in the 30s. Some returned to stardom when their work regained public popularity. Others descended into mental illness. Who actually "won"? In my mind, the ghetto girl. Read it and be inspired ...