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Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation

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Glamorized, mythologized and demonized - the women of the 1920s prefigured the 1960s in their determination to reinvent the way they lived. Flappers is in part a biography of that restless generation: starting with its first fashionable acts of rebellion just before the Great War, and continuing through to the end of the decade when the Wall Street crash signal led another Glamorized, mythologized and demonized - the women of the 1920s prefigured the 1960s in their determination to reinvent the way they lived. Flappers is in part a biography of that restless generation: starting with its first fashionable acts of rebellion just before the Great War, and continuing through to the end of the decade when the Wall Street crash signal led another cataclysmic world change. It focuses on six women who between them exemplified the range and daring of that generation’s spirit. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka were far from typical flappers. Although they danced the Charleston, wore fashionable clothes and partied with the rest of their peers, they made themselves prominent among the artists, icons, and heroines of their age. Talented, reckless and willful, with personalities that transcended their class and background, they re-wrote their destinies in remarkable, entertaining and tragic ways. And between them they blazed the trail of the New Woman around the world.


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Glamorized, mythologized and demonized - the women of the 1920s prefigured the 1960s in their determination to reinvent the way they lived. Flappers is in part a biography of that restless generation: starting with its first fashionable acts of rebellion just before the Great War, and continuing through to the end of the decade when the Wall Street crash signal led another Glamorized, mythologized and demonized - the women of the 1920s prefigured the 1960s in their determination to reinvent the way they lived. Flappers is in part a biography of that restless generation: starting with its first fashionable acts of rebellion just before the Great War, and continuing through to the end of the decade when the Wall Street crash signal led another cataclysmic world change. It focuses on six women who between them exemplified the range and daring of that generation’s spirit. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka were far from typical flappers. Although they danced the Charleston, wore fashionable clothes and partied with the rest of their peers, they made themselves prominent among the artists, icons, and heroines of their age. Talented, reckless and willful, with personalities that transcended their class and background, they re-wrote their destinies in remarkable, entertaining and tragic ways. And between them they blazed the trail of the New Woman around the world.

30 review for Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Flappers is a book that time-trips into the brave new world tempest of the 1920’s through the lives of six independent-minded and fascinating women. Their backgrounds could hardly be more different, but each of them upended conventional expectations by working hard to discard the hand they had been dealt, and all them spent time in Paris, the magnetic city that drew seekers from across the globe looking for avant-garde adventure during the lively decade sandwiched between the Great War and the G Flappers is a book that time-trips into the brave new world tempest of the 1920’s through the lives of six independent-minded and fascinating women. Their backgrounds could hardly be more different, but each of them upended conventional expectations by working hard to discard the hand they had been dealt, and all them spent time in Paris, the magnetic city that drew seekers from across the globe looking for avant-garde adventure during the lively decade sandwiched between the Great War and the Great Depression. 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Quick, name the decade: Women become increasingly assertive about their right to be equal with men, topics like abortion and contraception become flashpoints, and previously rigid lines dividing gender and sexuality become blurred – all of which leads to a significant cultural backlash. So what's the decade? The 2010s? The 1960s-70s? No, it's the 1920s, as Judith Mackrell makes clear in her riveting history of the decade through the lives of six famous, stubborn, groundbreaking and of Quick, name the decade: Women become increasingly assertive about their right to be equal with men, topics like abortion and contraception become flashpoints, and previously rigid lines dividing gender and sexuality become blurred – all of which leads to a significant cultural backlash. So what's the decade? The 2010s? The 1960s-70s? No, it's the 1920s, as Judith Mackrell makes clear in her riveting history of the decade through the lives of six famous, stubborn, groundbreaking and often conflicted women. These women ran wild, blazed their own trails and demanded equality with men – in the bedroom, in the workplace and in society. I can't praise this book highly enough. Mackrell picks six women whose lives are distinctive enough not to be repetitive but also overlap to an extent that she can layer them into a book and come out with a coherent picture of a decade. Opening with Diana Manners Cooper's hospital service in World War I and closing with Josephine Baker's conquering of Paris in the early 1930s, Flappers presents a top-down cultural history of a turbulent time, one that proved more fragile than any of its participants knew at the time. One of the benefits of cramming six mini-biographies into a book is that the action never slows; the boring bits simply can't survive such an attempt. Although Mackrell sometimes unleashes a flurry of names and places that can leave the reader reaching to pick the narrative back up, she for the most part keeps these stories taut and fascinating. The epilogue is particularly masterful, concluding the stories in a way that brings them together and reflects on the fact that most of them can fairly be described as tragedies. It's not hard to see parallels throughout the book between today's ongoing feminist struggles and the ones faced by the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and Tamara deLempicka. Many of the women featured in Mackrell's book faced physical and mental illness, isolation and/or obscurity as depression and war overwhelmed the world and left women's roles seemingly more home-bound than ever by the 1950s. Likewise, the leap forward of the 1960s-70s ended with defeat of the ERA and the Reagan Revolution, and in the 2010s, the seemingly inevitable march to put a woman in the White House instead ended with the election of a sexual predator. It's also not hard to notice the glaring gap between what these six women – five of them white, all of them eventually so wealthy that they could live virtually unstained by the deep poverty that existed just outside their neighborhoods – could accomplish and what the common woman could only dream of in the vastly unequal Roaring '20s. Independence was a luxury these women could afford. Yet their very opulence gave them the ability to change cultural norms in a way others could not, and as a result future generations of less privileged women could build on the foundation they laid. As modern-day feminism licks its wounds in the age of Donald Trump, Judith Mackrell's work is a brilliant reminder that progress does not occur in a straight line, that the battle for women's sexual and financial independence was fought with only partial success by a small group of fabulous women in a fleeting era of jazz, art deco and silent films. Yet their success nevertheless made the fight a little bit easier for the next set of warriors. Their personal lives may have tended toward the tragic, but we can hope that when the final story is written of the movements they birthed, it will be triumphant instead.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Page 133 – 34 (my book) Tallulah quotes: “I’m as pure as the driven slush” “I don’t give a f___ what people say about me so long as they say something.” This book tells us the story of six exhilarating women who made a definite mark in the 1920’s. They were strong-minded, independent, and out-spoken – against the grain. The six are: Tamara de Lempicka, grew up in Warsaw and St. Petersburg Nancy Cunard from England Diana Cooper from England Tallulah Bankhead/>“I’m Page 133 – 34 (my book) Tallulah quotes: “I’m as pure as the driven slush” “I don’t give a f___ what people say about me so long as they say something.” This book tells us the story of six exhilarating women who made a definite mark in the 1920’s. They were strong-minded, independent, and out-spoken – against the grain. The six are: Tamara de Lempicka, grew up in Warsaw and St. Petersburg Nancy Cunard from England Diana Cooper from England Tallulah Bankhead from the U.S. Zelda Fitzgerald from the U.S. Josephine Baker from the U.S. These women, drank, took drugs, and had several sexual partners (male and female). None were afraid to mouth their opinion vocally or in print. So, as can be imagined, this is an entertaining read. All made their way out of their native land – Paris was the main beacon – a city of liberty, art, and decadence. In Paris they could do as they desired- drinking, flirting, partying... The only one who didn’t make the Paris journey was Tallaluh, who found fame first in New York and then London. I found the stories of Tamara, Tallulah, and Josephine to be the most compelling. They started out of nothing. Tamara became a self-taught artist. Tallulah and Josephine became performers – sometimes scandalous. They were the Lady Gaga/Madonna of the era with scores of worshipping fans – for Tallulah many admirers were young women who wanted to emulate her. Sadly, these six women all suffered some form of psychological ordeals – in particular Zelda Fitzgerald. As I was reading I couldn’t help thinking that there are societies (nations) today, that still do not permit women to assert themselves as these women did – now almost one hundred years ago. In fact many countries would execute a woman for attempting to do so. Definitely an entertaining read! Page 405 On 15 April 1975, twenty thousand people stood on the streets of Paris to watch as Josephine Baker’s coffin was driven in state across the city. Many thousands more watched on television, drawn by the congregation of famous names inside the Madeleine Church, and by the fact that for the first time in French history an American woman was being mourned with full military honours.

  4. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    3.5* In Flappers, Judith Mackrell portrays six women of the early 20th century who became leading ladies of a fashion trend that gave us the Flapper - Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lampicka, Nancy Cunard, Diana Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and Zelda Fitzgerald. To be honest, I had not heard of some of them. I had a fair knowledge of Josephine Baker, Nancy Cunard, and Zelda Fitzgerald, but had not heard of Diana Cooper or Tallulah Bankhead and was fascinated to find out that Tamara de 3.5* In Flappers, Judith Mackrell portrays six women of the early 20th century who became leading ladies of a fashion trend that gave us the Flapper - Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lampicka, Nancy Cunard, Diana Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and Zelda Fitzgerald. To be honest, I had not heard of some of them. I had a fair knowledge of Josephine Baker, Nancy Cunard, and Zelda Fitzgerald, but had not heard of Diana Cooper or Tallulah Bankhead and was fascinated to find out that Tamara de Lempicka was the artist that created some of paintings that I have come to associate with some of my favourite book covers. Apart from very detailed insights into the life of each woman, Mackrell's book does a fabulous job at revealing the social and historical context of each character. Each woman came from a different background, and struggled with different circumstances to rise to fame. This was fascinating. What was not so fascinating was that a lot of Mackrell's writing seemed to be concerned with the love lives of each woman. Appropriating the words of Zelda, some chapters grated on me because it seemed that ‘All they talk about is sex,’ [...], ‘sex plain, striped, mixed and fancy.’ Still, this was a fascinating read about a time and a fashion movement that has left its mark on generations to come.

  5. 5 out of 5

    rachael gibson

    Yet another book about flappers for me - do I need to find a new genre?? Downloaded this to read on a four-day train journey and devoured it in two - six short, readable, fascinating biographies of half a dozen women whose lives intersected, personally as well as through their obvious common ground. Whether you're a flapper-freak already or just want an introduction to some notable characters from the era before investing in more indepth biographies, this makes for a brilli Yet another book about flappers for me - do I need to find a new genre?? Downloaded this to read on a four-day train journey and devoured it in two - six short, readable, fascinating biographies of half a dozen women whose lives intersected, personally as well as through their obvious common ground. Whether you're a flapper-freak already or just want an introduction to some notable characters from the era before investing in more indepth biographies, this makes for a brilliant read. Without distracting from the brilliantly-written book, it does go without saying that it paints a depressing portrait of life for women in the 20s - even the famous and privileged. Sexual abuse, vast inequality, violence.. important to know but can be hard to stomach.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    The author has chosen six women who represent the "flapper" of the 1920s......free-wheeling, amoral, publicity seeking, and in some instances talented They are: Josephine Baker: talented dancer and the Ebony Venus of Paris Tamara de Lempicki : talented artist whose painting graces the cover of this book Tallulah Bankhead: somewhat talented actress who became a caricature in later life. Lady Diana Cooper: actress who became famous as the very politically savvy wife of Duff Cooper. Nancy Cunard: famous for outrageous behavior/lifestyle and famou/>Nancy/>/>Tallulah/>Tamara/>Josephine The author has chosen six women who represent the "flapper" of the 1920s......free-wheeling, amoral, publicity seeking, and in some instances talented They are: Josephine Baker: talented dancer and the Ebony Venus of Paris Tamara de Lempicki : talented artist whose painting graces the cover of this book Tallulah Bankhead: somewhat talented actress who became a caricature in later life. Lady Diana Cooper: actress who became famous as the very politically savvy wife of Duff Cooper. Nancy Cunard: famous for outrageous behavior/lifestyle and famous for being famous. Zelda Fitzgerald: famous as the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The author divides this book into 12 chapters, two about each woman, and a final summing up of their later life after their days as hedonistic young women were over. There is a plethora of information here that makes it impossible to review the life of each woman in a review. It can be said, however, that only a couple of them made it through life without ending up broke, both financially and mentally. It is an engrossing read, even if you might not like some of the featured players, which I didn't. The supporting characters in each woman's story are equally as interesting, as many of the rich and famous passed through their lives. Granted, it is a little bit gossipy and juicy but the author's writing doesn't become salacious and I felt she was unbiased and presented the almost unimaginable lives of her subjects fairly. Recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Judith Mackrell is the Guardian's dance critic and is the author of four other books, all non-fiction, and all based around dance. Flappers, sub-titled 'Six Women of a Dangerous Generation' is a multi-biography. Judith Mackrell follows six women from the 1920s who between them were the faces of this generation. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka were either adored or scorned by the public. They were women Judith Mackrell is the Guardian's dance critic and is the author of four other books, all non-fiction, and all based around dance. Flappers, sub-titled 'Six Women of a Dangerous Generation' is a multi-biography. Judith Mackrell follows six women from the 1920s who between them were the faces of this generation. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka were either adored or scorned by the public. They were women who broke the mould, who dared to be different, to be independent and to be noticed. I was instantly intrigued by the thought of reading about these six women, especially Diana Cooper as her family home; Belvoir Castle is not far away from where I live and I'd also recently read The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey which had aroused something of a fascination with the strange, almost dysfunctional Rutland family of Belvoir. Judith Mackrell has cleverly interwoven the six separate stories by only allowing each women two chapters each. Each has one chapter in the first half of the book, and one chapter each in the second. I thought this was an excellent way of keeping the reader's interest in each of the women. There is no doubt that these six women caused chaos and controversy everywhere that they went. With the exception of Josephine Baker, each of them came from rich and privileged backgrounds and were able to use their contacts to achieve their aims of wealth, fame and, to some extent beauty. Surrounding themselves with the beautiful people of the day, dancing in the fashionable clubs and wearing the highest fashions, these women broke boundaries. Not for them, the stay-at-home, traditional female role, their aim was to shock, whether that meant taking drugs, lesbian love affairs, sleeping around or dancing naked in public. Each woman, in their own way was damaged to some extent, and although Judith Mackrell has relayed documented facts in this book, her writing does not try to force an opinion upon the reader. It becomes our choice as to whether we can forgive such awful behaviours because of things that may have happened to Zelda, or Diana, or Tallulah in the past. Beneath the glamour and the excess, the tragedy and the fame, this is the story of how six women changed the world for a little while. They were a new breed; daring and explicit and paved the way for women, especially in show-business and in art. Regardless of what we may think of their behaviour, there is no doubt that they made being female more equal and probably easier for generations to come. Judith Mackrell The Pan Macmillan Reading Group Panel had a lively debate about this book. We particularly found it interesting to compare and contrast the six women and their lifestyle to celebrities of today. Comparisons ranged from Kerry Katona, to Katie Price to Courtney Love. There were also the parallels to the 1960s and also to some extent the 1980s, with the money, the drugs and the complete hedonism of that decade. Another comparison that would apply to the 1980s is the fact that the behaviours peaked before a Depression or Recession. We wondered just how far women would have moved forward without the disruption of financial collapse. We all agreed that we would recommend Flappers to reading groups, even if groups do not traditionally read non-fiction this is written in such a style that it could almost be fictional. It most certainly isn't a dull list of times and dates, it's an entertaining and educating read. Groups that have enjoyed books such as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Suspicions of Mr Whicher would certainly enjoy this. Our advance proof copies did not have any illustrations, but the Pan Macmillan assure us that the finished edition will include photos - all of us agreed that this is essential. We all admitted to Googling pictures of the women whilst we were reading as Judith Mackrell's descriptions are so well written that as a reader you find yourself dying to look at real photos.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    Not only is this a biography of six women in one - Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker, Diana Cooper, Zelda Fitzgerald and Tamara de Lempicka - it is also a biography of the flapper; the 1920s girls who broke the mould and irreversibly changed the status of women. Mackrell has chosen six women from very different backgrounds and who lived very different lives, yet who still came to embody - even create - the flapper. I was only previously familiar with the story of Josephine Baker, Not only is this a biography of six women in one - Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker, Diana Cooper, Zelda Fitzgerald and Tamara de Lempicka - it is also a biography of the flapper; the 1920s girls who broke the mould and irreversibly changed the status of women. Mackrell has chosen six women from very different backgrounds and who lived very different lives, yet who still came to embody - even create - the flapper. I was only previously familiar with the story of Josephine Baker, so there was a lot of wonderful new material for me, and even though I have read a full biography of Josephine there was still fresh information and insight in this brilliantly researched and engagingly written book. What makes this biography so brilliant is that it is grounded in the shared social history of these women - the culture and attitudes they faced, and the historical events that shaped them such as the shocking tragedies of the First World War and the dislocation felt by so many afterwards, the development of women's rights and the emergence of new popular culture such as the cinema and jazz music. They even had overlapping social circles at times, and Mackrell's recording of these details help give a full picture. The context serves to make the women's stories even more remarkable. Refreshingly, Mackrell is not in thrall to her subject and presents an objective and balanced portrait of the women, showing their flaws, weaknesses and sometimes downright unpleasant personalities alongside their achievements. Appropriately, being a biography of the flapper, Mackrell details the lives of the women roughly up until the end of the 1920s, mostly coinciding with a peak or turning point in their lives. I found the epilogue, which sums up the rest of the women's lives more briefly, particularly fascinating; so many of the Bright Young Things dazzled in the 1920s but quickly and often tragically burned themselves out, yet some managed to transcend the era that had both formed them and been formed by them. Especially with Baz Luhrman's Gatsby film and 1920s-fever upon us, this outstanding biography is a must-read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    I really enjoyed this book. Going into it I knew little about any of the women. I'd previously read some about Zelda Fitzgerald and Diana (Manners) Cooper, and recognized Tamara de Lempicka's paintings, but that was about it. This book expanded on the little I knew, and gave me great starting points on the other women. Flappers covers the lives of Diana Manners Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tamara de Lempicka, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Josephine Baker. Mackrell has two chapters I really enjoyed this book. Going into it I knew little about any of the women. I'd previously read some about Zelda Fitzgerald and Diana (Manners) Cooper, and recognized Tamara de Lempicka's paintings, but that was about it. This book expanded on the little I knew, and gave me great starting points on the other women. Flappers covers the lives of Diana Manners Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tamara de Lempicka, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Josephine Baker. Mackrell has two chapters on each woman, one each in the first half and second half of the book. We learn about the woman's early life, how/why they became famous or infamous, and what happened to them afterwards. Many of the women had fairly sad lives after the 20s, it seemed, never being able to live up to or shed their image of the Flapper in the 20s. What was fun and appealing in the 20s was less so after the Depression hit and the world moved towards war again. The only woman who came out seeming to have had an overall happy life was Diana; the others all were eclipsed by who they had been. This is a great jumping off point to learning more about both the women covered and the times in which they lived.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    In 'Flappers' Judith Mackrell selects six women who epitomised the 1920s as a new breed of young women who lived life to the full under their own rules. They often wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behaviour. They were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms. In 1920, for instance, The In 'Flappers' Judith Mackrell selects six women who epitomised the 1920s as a new breed of young women who lived life to the full under their own rules. They often wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behaviour. They were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms. In 1920, for instance, The Times described them as, 'frivolous, scantily-clad, jazzing flapper[s] ... to whom a dance, a new hat or a man with a car is more important than the fate of nations'. Diana Cooper, Tamara de Lempicka, Tallulah Bankhead, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitagerald and Jospehine Baker all found the 1920s a moment that was very representative of their times and they all embraced the 1920s experience in art, fashion and lifestyle in their own unique ways. And all of them, talented, reckless, wilful and promiscuous as they were, all infiltrated into Paris's Left Bank society and blazed a trail for the new women of the world. By 1925 all six were travelling to places far beyond those that they, or anyone else, could have envisaged. They all reinvented themselves and became flappers. 'Flapper' in the 19th century carried a suggestion of innocence, evoking images of gawky, unfledged teenage girls but by the end of World War I the word was beginning to acquire connotations of brashness and defiance. And these six women embraced those traits. Each had different backgrounds, Diana very aristocratic, the youngest daughter of the Eighth Duke of Rutland, became an actress and was always determined to 'live life as I liked'; Nancy was a lonely, bookish little girl, who as she grew up was determined to make a new life for herself in Paris, where she was eventually regarded as 'a loose cannon'; Tamara's early life of privilege and pleasure in St Petersburg was abruptly brought to an end by the Russian Revolution so to Paris it was, where her untutored gift for painting was used to recreate herself as one of the most fashionable artists of the new 1920s decade - she claimed she 'started from nothing' and was determined to achieve 'the best of everything'; Zelda Sayre was a small-town Southern belle from Alabama who had already done some outrageous acts before she met novelist Scott Fitzgerald when such acts escalated immensely - Scott, who she married, was to say of their Paris years, 'We scarcely knew anymore who we were and we hadn't a notion of what we were'; Tallulah, a childhood friend of Zelda, always wanted to be an actress and, after she had won a minor film role, she graduated to Broadway and London's West End where she became known as 'a novice of rare intelligence and beauty'; Josephine came from the black ghetto of St Louis, married Billy Baker at age 15 (she had five or six other legitimate or otherwise marriages) and was always 'something special' when dancing in the local St Louis' theatres where she was spotted by Parisian impresarios and offered, and accepted, a new career in that city - she immediately decided to put her past behind her and look to the future which offered double her weekly wage at $250 and she was eventually embraced by Parisians as their own 'Black Venus'. All six women belonged to a dissident, often brilliantly wayward generation of very modern women, all six struggled to combine their public and private lives and all six achieved a heady degree of fame. Judith Mackrell tells their stories splendidly with plenty of contemporary anecdotes to make the book most entertaining reading. As a footnote I should say that what kept the book in the four-star category for me was its structure. Each lady has her life and achievements split into two distinct chapters covering the early and later parts of their careers so there are chapters on each one's early life before we return to their later life much later in the book. The intermission between the first and second chapters for each lady means that the reader has to cast a mind back to the earlier piece before continuing; it might just have been better if each lady had been dealt with in her entirety at one sitting. But who am I to make such a suggestion and it does not seriously detract from an engaging tale that superbly captures a feeling for the age.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I know this has somehow become my default reaction to books, recently, but: I wanted to like this book more than I did. Really it covers about 10-15 years in the lives of each of these women. That time period is broken into two parts, and then the entire book switches between all six women, twice over; an epilogue to the whole book covers the rest of their (usually pretty depressing) lives. I ended up just reading the two parts for each woman together instead of reading the book straight through I know this has somehow become my default reaction to books, recently, but: I wanted to like this book more than I did. Really it covers about 10-15 years in the lives of each of these women. That time period is broken into two parts, and then the entire book switches between all six women, twice over; an epilogue to the whole book covers the rest of their (usually pretty depressing) lives. I ended up just reading the two parts for each woman together instead of reading the book straight through. I didn't really learn anything new about either the women or the era itself, so...that doesn't seem like a very strong recommendation FOR the book, does it?! I did come to see that the impact of World War I is really underrated in contributing to the subsequent era's sense of freedom and, maybe more accurately, desperation to escape "real" life. These women "escaped" "real" life by being artists, and, most of them also escaped through alcohol and drug use and abuse. Really most of these women were also able to have the kind of lives they did because they were essentially independently wealthy, which is something they had no control over, and something that made their lives enviable but not necessarily achievable to millions of other women who desired that same sense of escape. Still, it's important not to think of "flappers" as carefree and zany--they were all affected very painfully by the devastation and losses of World War I--and it's a shame that that loss is not more remembered by all subsequent generations.

  12. 4 out of 5

    El

    This NYTimes article. Maybe read alongside the other book mentioned, Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby.

  13. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    The generation may have been dangerous, but these women were just pitiful. 2017 Lenten Buddy Reading Challenge book #27

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Flappers is ostensibly a look at six representative women of “a dangerous generation”: Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka. But it is much more than that; it is a fascinating history of an age on both sides of the Atlantic, a look at feminism and its progress, a kind of psychological profile of a generation and an age, a social commentary, and even a short course in early modern art, drama, and literature. Many other stars of t Flappers is ostensibly a look at six representative women of “a dangerous generation”: Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka. But it is much more than that; it is a fascinating history of an age on both sides of the Atlantic, a look at feminism and its progress, a kind of psychological profile of a generation and an age, a social commentary, and even a short course in early modern art, drama, and literature. Many other stars of the art world are name-dropped, including T.S. Eliot, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and many, many more. The book is basically in two parts. The author, Judith Mackrell, introduces each of her six subjects, taking them approximately halfway through the flapper era and the inter-war period, and then gives each a second chapter closing out their time as “flappers” and their lives. Along the way, even fans of the era or the women in question will learn new details, such as Josephine Baker’s time as a spy for the French Resistance during World War II, though many such interesting tidbits are sadly beyond the remit of this book and get little more than a mention. In the wake of WWI, the entire generation seemed lost. Nothing they knew to be true before seemed to hold fast in the present, so people were forced to forge their own new ways. The flappers were, in Mackrell’s words, “the first generation to claim [a life beyond motherhood and the family] as a right,” but such freedom does not come without suffering. At least two of the women covered, Cunard and Fitzgerald, suffered quite serious mental breakdowns and were institutionalized. Certain aspects of the book were just plain depressing, such as Baker’s repeated objectification and packaging as a sex object, Zelda’s painful psychological troubles, and both Cunard’s and Lempicka’s own objectification of the men around them. Yes, the book does mention lesbian lovers, extra-marital affairs, spousal abuse, drug use, snobbery, racism, and the odd bit of social grandstanding, but Mackrell doesn’t linger on the sordid details, which is a pleasant change from some biographies of these women. Neither does she flinch away from their possible selfish, even solipsistic behavior, particularly when the children of the women are involved. There is much to admire in these women, after all, and not just their admittedly important artistic achievement; Cooper, for example, cast aside the noble wealth to which she was accustomed to work in a hospital during WWI. A true historian, however, doesn’t take sides and reports all the facts, and Mackrell does that laudably, reporting both their genuine artistic genius and plentiful good deeds (such as frequent social activism, the protection of children, etc.), but also their not infrequent abuse of themselves and others. There is a lovely, if relatively brief, photo section in the book, providing at least a few photos for each of the six women. It would have been nice to have had more examples of Lempicka’s and Fitzgerald’s paintings, but the printing rights to such things would have increased the cost of the book exponentially. Flappers is highly recommended for historians, feminists, and anyone interested in women’s history. The psychological insights alone are worth the price of admission; the generation truly was “lost,” and everyone had to find their own way home, somehow. Fans of any or all of the women should read it, as well, as should fans of things like the Phryne Fisher mysteries. After all, these women were pioneers, and no matter how you may feel about their occasionally unusual moral choices (to say the least), they blazed a trail for subsequent women’s freedom, pushing forward issues such as birth control, voting rights, and more—several of the women were also key campaigners for race equality, recognizing that all oppression is related and affects us all. I did receive a copy of this book from GoodReads’ First Reads program, in return for a fair and unbiased review, which they got. It’s truly just a great book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    At first I was wondering why not Louise Brooks, Colette or Clara Bow? But then as I read on I can see why the author picked those six. There was a thread that connected all six and in many ways they all had similarities. Sadly Zelda and Tamara had very sad endings and even now I'm not sure both have their complete fair dues. However, this book brings both into focus as well and clearly as Diana, Nancy, Josephine and Tallulah. They are not only women of their era of a set time in the roaring 20s. At first I was wondering why not Louise Brooks, Colette or Clara Bow? But then as I read on I can see why the author picked those six. There was a thread that connected all six and in many ways they all had similarities. Sadly Zelda and Tamara had very sad endings and even now I'm not sure both have their complete fair dues. However, this book brings both into focus as well and clearly as Diana, Nancy, Josephine and Tallulah. They are not only women of their era of a set time in the roaring 20s. They rose and trembled onwards into the next decades, while alive or dead. They did set the tone for their granddaughters in the 60s (whether they actually had children or not) even though this is seldom recognised. They all had faults, they erred, they criticised unmercifully to those near and dear and they left those people far behind as they forged ahead to be on an equal footing to men. Even now women can be fiercely criticised for not being attentive enough mothers and wives (if they are) and that they should be both (if they are not) should they embark on careers. Children should come first, tied with their husbands, their work/duties and then themselves at the bottom of the list. It is the constant dilemma for young women to have it all and keep it all, balanced. Go to school, go to work, get married, have a family, keep the job, keep everyone happy. How can it work of a job, a social life, a family life, a community life and have it all bundled together and be fulfilled? Women now as then are preoccupied with appearances, being glamorous, being beautiful, being svelte, being clever without being smart, being funny without being ridiculous, being attractive and sexy, being fashionable and being feminine. Having the whole image of career girl, devoted wife, dutiful daughter, hip mother and being the absolute perfect member of the community that will host or help events (baking, charity work), support others fully and running marathons. The modern woman can do it all and keep her sanity and her depression in check...as long as she doesn't take her career too far her own way. The six flappers tried to have it all and wanted it all, as long as she could put herself first. But that is upsetting the natural order of things for women. Indeed it was unnatural then for women to smoke, forge close relationships with other women (whether fully sexual or not), to drink a lot, to get naked a lot, to drive, to handle her own money as she felt like, to have abortions, to be sensual, to put her art/work first. Now in some parts of the world we can smoke like chimneys with no specified complaints, we can throw our money around, in some areas lesbians are recognised (still mostly disliked and hated), some can have abortions but we are losing that right, in some countries we can drive like mad turkeys same as men and yet it's still not entirely liked that women put their art and work first of everything else. Hilary Mantel is a case in point in today's times of woman badly treated when she voices her opinions and how she handles her career. We owe much to the Flappers, these six and others, unspoken Flappers, and yet see how far we have yet to come. This is a very well written book and well worth the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    I was looking forward to reading this book from the moment I heard about it. I'm really attracted by this period in history, and I love biographies. My reading about and from the early twentieth century has expanded greatly since joining the Bright Young Things group on Goodreads last year, and I think that group may be where I first heard about this book. The six women Judith Mackrell writes about are: Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker a I was looking forward to reading this book from the moment I heard about it. I'm really attracted by this period in history, and I love biographies. My reading about and from the early twentieth century has expanded greatly since joining the Bright Young Things group on Goodreads last year, and I think that group may be where I first heard about this book. The six women Judith Mackrell writes about are: Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka. I'd heard of all of them but didn't know a great deal about any of them. What they have in common is that they were young women in the 1920s, a time of social upheaval and years in which women were becoming more independent. Of course their lives weren't representative of most women's lives at the time. Most women probably lived lives which weren't very different from the lives of their mothers and grandmothers. But these six, and others like them became famous and young women of the time aspired to be like them. Even if working class women still didn't have many opportunities they could now have aspirations and role models. Tallulah Bankhead in particular had fanatical young women admirers who queued for hours to see her performances. With the exception of Josephine Baker, all these women came from wealthy backgrounds, though in the case of Tamara de Limpicka she lost everything when she was forced to flee Russia during the Revolution. I particularly admired Tamara. She had led a pampered life in Russia and the change to a life of relative poverty in Paris must've been a tremendous shock. Her husband (and many others) did not have her ability to create a new life. "It was a mystery to Tamara how her confident playboy of a husband could become so unattractively mired in depression.......It was one reason why, when Tamara found the resolve to turn her life around she did so entirely on her own terms and without bothering to consult Tadeusz. Once she had decided to become a professional painter she immersed herself completely in the project, certain that from now on her own ambitions would take precedence over his." One of things that is made very clear in this book is how hard it is to be a trailblazer. All of these women had ambitions which were way ahead of what society was prepared to accept. Alcohol and drugs feature heavily in a number of these stores, a comfort in lives which were often unhappy. The most successful professionally was Josephine Baker, a woman who came from almost unimaginable hardship to become an international superstar whose fame endures long after her death. She never achieved the stable personal life she craved. In comparison Diana Cooper did have a stable home life, but at the cost of giving up a promising career in the theatre. I loved this book, just as I loved Judith Mackrell's book about the Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova. These were exceptional women and they lived in fascinating times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    This was an extremely interesting and well-researched book about six notable flappers. They were Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard and Tamara de Lempicka. They came from different walks of life but all shared several commonalities: creativity, fierce drive for independence, talent and a strong desire for revolution. They lead extremely interesting lives in exotic places. They also suffered hardships and battled hard to gain respect equal This was an extremely interesting and well-researched book about six notable flappers. They were Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard and Tamara de Lempicka. They came from different walks of life but all shared several commonalities: creativity, fierce drive for independence, talent and a strong desire for revolution. They lead extremely interesting lives in exotic places. They also suffered hardships and battled hard to gain respect equal to their male counterparts. It took me twice as long to read this book because I stopped so often to google their photos and those of their famous friends, as well as the fabulous places they lived! If you enjoy reading about this era, you will no doubt love this book. It was a lot of fun to read. I learned a lot of new information about these very fascinating women.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Agnesxnitt

    Marvelous - well written and with a couple of chapters to each 'Dangerous Woman' about their rise to fame and afterwards. The 20's seem to have been a wonderfully indulgent time to live - but only if you had the money, or the noteriety and cash, to really party through the decade. Some women were not satisfied with just living as society expected, and the women, or Ladies in some cases, certainly weren't and acted accordingly. Though their antics/life styles/life choices would har Marvelous - well written and with a couple of chapters to each 'Dangerous Woman' about their rise to fame and afterwards. The 20's seem to have been a wonderfully indulgent time to live - but only if you had the money, or the noteriety and cash, to really party through the decade. Some women were not satisfied with just living as society expected, and the women, or Ladies in some cases, certainly weren't and acted accordingly. Though their antics/life styles/life choices would hardly raise an eyebrow these days in the celebrity columns, in their time they shocked and yet fascinated their friends, enemies and the general public with their behaviour. Not sure I'd re-read this one, but would be interested in reading a more expanded biography of Josephine Baker.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I have an interest in anything 1920s, not just flappers. So of course I couldn’t pass up this book when I saw it on the shelves. Why, yes. I would like to learn more about dangerous women from the 1920s. The thing is, while Mackrell wrote a compelling story about the lives of these women, all of them save Josephine Baker were entitled, self-absorbed, selfish assholes who risked little doing what they did because they had exorbitant amounts of money behind them/breeding/solid parentals to fall ba I have an interest in anything 1920s, not just flappers. So of course I couldn’t pass up this book when I saw it on the shelves. Why, yes. I would like to learn more about dangerous women from the 1920s. The thing is, while Mackrell wrote a compelling story about the lives of these women, all of them save Josephine Baker were entitled, self-absorbed, selfish assholes who risked little doing what they did because they had exorbitant amounts of money behind them/breeding/solid parentals to fall back on. That’s not to say these rich white women didn’t have their share of troubles and hard times. But it was all watered down because the consequences were so low. Their entitlement and privilege allowed them to make these decisions, to act in these ways, to suffer the repercussions without all that much suffering because money and breeding can just get them out of trouble. As a result Josephine Baker was the most compelling story to me. She came from nothing and with pure drive and ambition she worked her ass off and fought for what she received, all while having black skin and fighting through everything that brought her. That’s not to say the only success story is one where the person rose from nothing. But it’s hard to sympathize for someone who was constantly losing their money when they were the ones lighting it on fire to begin with. I mean I guess you can say most of these women are the products of their environment. They had privilege and experiences afforded them because of who they were born as that others had to scrabble for. Some would say society required different things from these women so it was a big leap to make the decision to buck against them. I mean, yes, but they never leapt that far from comfort. They felt certain things were owed to them, they deserved to live in a certain kind of luxury regardless of the money that was or wasn’t there. For most of them that entitlement was bred into them. In Josephine Baker’s situation, it was earned. Squalor for the white women was a four bedroom apartment instead of a sex bedroom. It was dining in a bar instead of in a restaurant or simply NOT buying that particular dress. Josephine slept multiples to a mattress growing up, not to mention enduring segregation and the squalor’s squalor that people of color suffered from even worse than their white counterparts. As a result I felt little to nothing for the majority white women in this book. They were arrogant and useless, living day to day on their own entitlement and expecting the world to fall at their feet. They were unsympathetic and rather insufferable. I completely get the romantic aspect of these women throwing off their corsets and dancing the Charleston in their best pearls. I’ve read The Great Gatsby. I’ve watched Boardwalk Empire. I get it. But the reality is just so . . . blech. They’re the Kardashians of nearly 100 years ago, famous for nothing. Although to Tamara’s credit, she was an established painter that was successful in her own right, if not an insufferable twat of a personality. I think FLAPPERS does a good job of exhibiting all of the social changes going on at the time that allowed these women to do what they did without, say, being institutionalized for being too whatever. Intelligent? Artistic? Reading too much? It portrays this unstoppable wave of change fueled by an entire generation of women, spearheaded by the women portrayed in this book. But it’s also indicative that few non-white individuals were lucky enough to reap the benefits of that change. Even Josephine, especially when she came back to the US after she rose to fame in Paris, suffered far more than just gossipy whispers about her exploits. The flapper movement was female, predominantly white female. The richer, the better. Can’t change history now. It is what it is. Mackrell lays out the details in an engaging way and she doesn’t sugarcoat any of these women. But she certainly rips the wool off of the hindsight eyes in exposing some of the greatest flappers of the time for what they truly were. 4

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    First things first, again, I like the twenties and I like a good biography from time to time. It was also no doubt well researched and easy to read. Why am I only giving it 2 stars then? Well it is the people this book is about. I found them difficult to relate to. Sure they are well known and what they were doing was new in the 1920s. That is noteworthy, but half the time I was wondering why they did what they did because it seemed like they were setting themselves up for First things first, again, I like the twenties and I like a good biography from time to time. It was also no doubt well researched and easy to read. Why am I only giving it 2 stars then? Well it is the people this book is about. I found them difficult to relate to. Sure they are well known and what they were doing was new in the 1920s. That is noteworthy, but half the time I was wondering why they did what they did because it seemed like they were setting themselves up for trouble. And in nearly all the cases that is what they got because there is so much drama, almost all the time. If you are, like me, of the opinion that the artwork should always be in the limelight and not the artists personal life then you might get a bit frustrated with their endless theatrics and drinks/having affairs. Well, if not, I was. You cannot just do things for shockvalue and because it hasn't been done before, there needs to be a purpose to it. I'll at admit I skipped every now and again, there was just such desperation to it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Noble

    I was looking forward to finally reading this book, which covers one of the most interesting time periods of the twentieth century (the Roaring Twenties). Unfortunately it took me almost a month to read it as I had to keep moving on to another book and coming back to this one. It's quite a feat to make a book about six such interesting women quite so boring to read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liudmila

    This is a story about six wayward women – flappers - epitomizing the roaring twenties. Really enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it to everyone interested in the period of the 1920s and in artistic personalities.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    This wasn't the best piece of nonfiction I've ever read, but the content was certainly interesting. The six women in this book, Zelda Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, and Tamara de Lempicki, exemplified the entire generation and the cultural phenomenon of the flapper. These women were linked in their incredibly depressing love lives and their sometimes debilitating need to be seen. By far the most interesting sections were Zelda's. That couple! Such tur This wasn't the best piece of nonfiction I've ever read, but the content was certainly interesting. The six women in this book, Zelda Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, and Tamara de Lempicki, exemplified the entire generation and the cultural phenomenon of the flapper. These women were linked in their incredibly depressing love lives and their sometimes debilitating need to be seen. By far the most interesting sections were Zelda's. That couple! Such turbulence! Josephine Baker's sections were very interesting too, although the casual exoticism was so disgusting I almost had to put the book down. It was pretty fascinating to read about these women's lives and the ways that they tried to make names for themselves and celebrate life in such a boisterous way while teetering on the edge of insanity (for some--Zelda). Although it was a little quaint to hear of how "modern" and shocking some of their behavior was: wearing ROUGE?? Dancing the CHARLESTON?! I mean the Charleston is universally known as the sexiest dance, but still. It was particularly interesting to see the clashes between the generations. Nancy basically never spoke to her aristocratic mother again, and Diana clashed with hers too, to an extent. These women's relationships with their children were no less fraught. Poor Scottie Fitzgerald! And poor Kizette, Tamara de Lempicka's comically named child! These kids were raised in such turbulent homes filled with adultery, threats, drugs, and booze. They didn't really seem able to have a relationship with their children as they grew older. I'm only giving this review a three star rating, because Judith Mackrell's writing didn't really grab me. She had some good analysis, but...I don't know. It was no The New Jim Crow or The Almost Nearly Perfect People. (See great non-fiction shelf) Learned some cool stuff though!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I was drawn to this title because it had been awhile since I'd read a biography and I liked the fact that it highlighted six women so I felt like I could get more of a sense for the generation rather than just one person's life. Some of the women I was familiar with (Zelda Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker) and others I'd never heard of (Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunnard, and the annoying Russian expatriate). Sadly my excitement about the book ends with the anticipation I had. The two mai I was drawn to this title because it had been awhile since I'd read a biography and I liked the fact that it highlighted six women so I felt like I could get more of a sense for the generation rather than just one person's life. Some of the women I was familiar with (Zelda Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker) and others I'd never heard of (Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunnard, and the annoying Russian expatriate). Sadly my excitement about the book ends with the anticipation I had. The two main things that bothered me were Mackrell's choice of pacing and the voice that she uses throughout. Instead of having six full stories, back to back, she instead chose to interlace and overlap the stories. When it's done well, that style choice can be stunning. When it's not, it's chaotic and confusing and annoying. You don't know where you are in the person's timeline that you left 25 pages ago and recently rejoined, it's not sequential - which is a bad thing for a biography - unless you can clearly and cleanly explain the story lines and it makes sense whey it's done in that manner. This doesn't. Chapters ended abruptly and jumped ahead and she struggled to make the story seem coherent in any way. Which leads to my next bit of frustration - this was little better than a gossip rag about celebrities who no one cares about any longer. Diana "thought" and Zelda "felt" and so on and so forth. It ready like a terrible magazine instead of a well researched biography. How, praytell, do you KNOW what they thought and felt? She didn't have letters documented to back up her assumptions and furthermore tried to tie the women together based on her assumptions alone (with lines like Josephine must have felt this way as well...). It was just grating. I'd love to learn more about these women and get a solid recommendation from someone because this was just not worth reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elisha

    4.5 stars. I love flappers. I think that this social movement of rebellious, ambitious, stylish, and sexually-liberated woman is SO iconic, but I also think that flappers often get overlooked in the history of feminism. Fair enough, they didn't make any great political change like the suffragettes or the campaigners of the 1960s. Even the social change they made was minimal; even though famous flappers inspired their admirers to emulate them, this really was a time when the liberation 4.5 stars. I love flappers. I think that this social movement of rebellious, ambitious, stylish, and sexually-liberated woman is SO iconic, but I also think that flappers often get overlooked in the history of feminism. Fair enough, they didn't make any great political change like the suffragettes or the campaigners of the 1960s. Even the social change they made was minimal; even though famous flappers inspired their admirers to emulate them, this really was a time when the liberation of individual women came above the liberation of women as a whole. Despite that, though, I find these women fascinating and quite amazing. They were pioneers, trail-blazers, and true icons. Yes, they did questionable things, but the things that they achieved despite the patriarchy of their era are incredible. I truly believe that more people need to know about these historical figures, myself included. Prior to reading this book, I knew a hell of a lot about Zelda Fitzgerald (she was my main motivation for picking up this book), a tiny amount about Josephine Baker, and nothing at all about the other four women who feature in this biography - Lady Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, and Tamara de Lempicka. After doing a little research whilst I was reading this book, I've discovered that Tamara de Lempicka's artworks are actually remarkably familiar to me (one serves as the cover for my edition of The Well of Loneliness), but I had no idea of the artist's name until now. As a result, this biography proved great fun for me because it both introduced me to new stories and allowed me to get better acquainted with the ones I already knew. As a Fitzgerald lover, I'm always up for as many chances as I can get to read about Zelda and Scott, but it's about time that my perceptions of the 1920s broadened beyond them and this book was the perfect excuse for that to happen. In here, I encountered remarkable women who I'd probably have never learned the existence of otherwise. I'm so thankful that I picked this up for that reason. I feel like I've learnt so, so much from it, and I can also see this acting as a springboard for further reading. The stories of the women in 'Flappers' are somewhat limited - Mackrell crams each into around 70 pages, and what happened to these women after the 1920s is dealt with very briskly in the epilogue - but that's to be expected in a joint biography of six. This book serves as an introduction more than anything else, showing how each of these women embodied the idea of the flapper rather than giving an in-depth account of their individual lives. The brevity of each story certainly didn't bother me, as I was getting acquainted with most of these characters for the first time and only really needed to know the basics. I also think that Mackrell did a very good job of selecting the material to use for each story. Zelda's chapters (which I can judge best as she's the only one I knew a significant amount about beforehand) gave a fair account of her marriage, mental illness, and many artistic pursuits. I don't think that anything particularly important was missing, even if some parts were dealt with more quickly than others. The same goes for the other women: I feel as though I have a decent understanding of each of them now, with no glaring gaps in my knowledge that I feel I need to fill. Certainly, I want to pick up other, more focused biographies in order to gain greater insight into these fascinating personalities, but what I gained here more than sufficed, as I think the way that it has peaked my interest shows. My favourite of these women to learn about was probably Tamara de Lempicka. Of all the women in this book, her beliefs and behaviour probably line up the least with my own (she was right-wing, a serial adulteress, and a neglectful mother), but I think that she led a fascinating existence and I am stunned that it's taken me this long to learn her name when, as I said, her art is so familiar to me. Diana Cooper's story was the least interesting to me personally, but I did still take a lot from it. I think that Mackrell's decision to focus on women across a range of professions and countries was inspired, because their differences emphasised their individual talents. I also have to praise Mackrell for the attention she paid to these women's sexuality. Tamara and Tallulah were both bisexual, and, from the details Mackrell included in her story, it seems that Josephine Baker was too. I'm always up for LGBT historical figures getting more recognition or having their sexuality celebrated as a part of their identity, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading those aspects of the text, especially considering that I wasn't expecting to see them here. Mackrell's handling of the subject of race was a little more clumsy in my opinion. She applies a lot of exotic language to Josephine outside of quotations, which keeps with the time period but reads a little problematically by modern standards. Much of Josephine's civil rights activism isn't touched on here either, but, as this is primarily a biography of the 20s, I guess that can be excused. I do think that she handled Josephine's story well otherwise, showing how she was commodified as a result of her race without losing sight of just how remarkable and pioneering a figure she was. Should I read more biographies of Josephine Baker in future, however, I think I'll be prioritising those by black writers. Overall, I thought that 'Flappers' was a brilliant portrait of a remarkable era which served as an excellent introduction to the lives of six incredible women. That's a lot of adjectives crammed into one sentence, but it shows how well-executed this book is a number of areas. It has certainly invigorated a new interest in flappers and the 1920s in general for me, and I'm pretty much certain that this isn't going to be the only book of this kind that I read. I, of course, will be reading more about Zelda Fitzgerald in future, and I can totally see myself reading more about Tamara de Lempicka, Josephine Baker, and Tallulah Bankhead too. Then, of course, there are books about the famous flappers who weren't included in this one - like Louise Brooks and Clara Bow. I've discovered that this is an era of history that I am very interested in, and this book provided an excellent starting point for me to turn that interest into knowledge. I'm so incredibly glad that I read it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    Since reading The Great Gatsby at the start of this year I've been quite fascinated by the 1920s. This proved a well-researched and beautifully presented biography of six iconic women of the 1920s. I've both read and listened to this book quite slowly over a six week period and found it a memorable and informative journey. I was only really familiar with the life of Zelda Fitzgerald though knew of Josephine Baker and Tallulah Bankhead. I also had seen some of the art of Tamara de Lempicka during my st Since reading The Great Gatsby at the start of this year I've been quite fascinated by the 1920s. This proved a well-researched and beautifully presented biography of six iconic women of the 1920s. I've both read and listened to this book quite slowly over a six week period and found it a memorable and informative journey. I was only really familiar with the life of Zelda Fitzgerald though knew of Josephine Baker and Tallulah Bankhead. I also had seen some of the art of Tamara de Lempicka during my studies of modern art history and realised that the antics of Lady Diana Cooper as wife of the French Ambassador were satirized in Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred. The book was very accessible with a section of photographs and also had plenty of sources, notes and a bibliography to please the academic minded. Mackrell didn't shy away from the darker aspects of these women's lives, which includes addiction, mental illness as well as challenging the sexual mores of their time. Although I initially borrowed this from library in hardback, I have now bought a Kindle edition as it is a work I'd like in my collection and have recommended to friends interested in the period.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tristan Robin Blakeman

    Intriguing and fascinating, this book is a collection of short-story/novella length biographies of six women who defined the Jazz Age: Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka. All of them were considered daring and scandalous for their time - and some of their actions would still be considered daring and scandalous today! I have read full-length biographies of both Zelda Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker, so those "chapters" didn't ho Intriguing and fascinating, this book is a collection of short-story/novella length biographies of six women who defined the Jazz Age: Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka. All of them were considered daring and scandalous for their time - and some of their actions would still be considered daring and scandalous today! I have read full-length biographies of both Zelda Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker, so those "chapters" didn't hold much surprise for me - but the others really piqued my interest and I would certainly enjoy reading full length bios on them all. Most especially, Tamara de Lempicka - who I only know from her paintings and knew nothing about her personally - was very interesting to read about - and I'd like to know more. This book is a TERRIFIC overview of these women's lives and how they helped shape women's place in society in the twentieth century. Well written and excellently researched, I recommend it to anybody who is interested in the Roaring 20's, women in history, women in 20th century arts, or people who simply enjoy tales of real-life daring and scandalous behavior!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    This book was about six women who came of age during the Roaring 20's and became ground-breaking "flappers". The six subjects were British aristocrats Lady Diana Manners and Nancy Cunnard, painter Tamara De Lempicka and three Americans: Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald and Tallulah Bankhead. All of these women were way ahead of their time - nervy, independent and determined to live life as they liked. Flappers was highly readable and held my interest throughout (even the footnotes were interest This book was about six women who came of age during the Roaring 20's and became ground-breaking "flappers". The six subjects were British aristocrats Lady Diana Manners and Nancy Cunnard, painter Tamara De Lempicka and three Americans: Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald and Tallulah Bankhead. All of these women were way ahead of their time - nervy, independent and determined to live life as they liked. Flappers was highly readable and held my interest throughout (even the footnotes were interesting). I especially appreciated the Epilogue at the end that completed each of their life stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jayde

    To be honest, I loved this book. I'm not sure what's holding me back from a 5 star review, but something is. If you want a brief look into the life of 6 quite amazing ladies of the 20s then this book is one for you. Don't be put off by its size, each section is an absolute joy and breeze to read. I think the missing star is because I'm now going to have to go and read more in-depth about each one and some of the other figures mentioned such as Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Waugh and I already To be honest, I loved this book. I'm not sure what's holding me back from a 5 star review, but something is. If you want a brief look into the life of 6 quite amazing ladies of the 20s then this book is one for you. Don't be put off by its size, each section is an absolute joy and breeze to read. I think the missing star is because I'm now going to have to go and read more in-depth about each one and some of the other figures mentioned such as Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Waugh and I already have enough to read!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarrah

    A number of typos threw me off, but I loved how Mackrell gave each of the six women her own voice. Even more commendable was the light that shone on Zelda Fitzgerald--her husband's. No other men figured as prominently as did Scott, and people who have read other biographies or sketches about Zelda know how closely tied were the behaviors and personalities of the husband and wife duo. Also, Mackrell never shied away from making the reader dislike any of these women (and there were any number of r A number of typos threw me off, but I loved how Mackrell gave each of the six women her own voice. Even more commendable was the light that shone on Zelda Fitzgerald--her husband's. No other men figured as prominently as did Scott, and people who have read other biographies or sketches about Zelda know how closely tied were the behaviors and personalities of the husband and wife duo. Also, Mackrell never shied away from making the reader dislike any of these women (and there were any number of reasons to do so). Well done, not too long, never boring, and seemingly largely unbiased.

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