By the 1920s, women were on the verge of something huge. Jazz, racy fashions, eyebrowraising new attitudes about art and sex all of this pointed to a sleek, modern world, one that could shake off the grimness of the Great War and stride into the future in one deft, stylized gesture.Read more...
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By the 1920s, women were on the verge of something huge. Jazz, racy fashions, eyebrowraising new attitudes about art and sex all of this pointed to a sleek, modern world, one that could shake off the grimness of the Great War and stride into the future in one deft, stylized gesture. The women who defined this the Jazz Age Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka would presage the sexual revolution by nearly half a century and would shape the role of women for generations to come.
In "Flappers," the acclaimed biographer Judith Mackrell renders these women with all the color that marked their lives and their era. Both sensuous and sympathetic, her admiring biography lays bare the private lives of her heroines, filling in the bold contours. These women came from vastly different backgrounds, but all ended up passing through Paris, the mecca of the avant-garde. Before she was the toast of Parisian society, Josephine Baker was a poor black girl from the slums of Saint Louis. Tamara de Lempicka fled the Russian Revolution only to struggle to scrape together a life for herself and her family. A committed painter, her portraits were indicative of the age's art deco sensibility and sexual daring. The Brits in the group Nancy Cunard and Diana Cooper came from pinkie-raising aristocratic families but soon descended into the salacious delights of the vanguard. Tallulah Bankhead and Zelda Fitzgerald were two Alabama girls driven across the Atlantic by a thirst for adventure and artistic validation.
But beneath the flamboyance and excess of the Roaring Twenties lay age-old prejudices about gender, race, and sexuality. These flappers weren't just dancing and carousing; they were fighting for recognition and dignity in a male-dominated world. They were more than mere lovers or muses to the modernist masters in their pursuit of fame and intense experience, we see a generation of women taking bold steps toward something burgeoning, undefined, maybe dangerous: a New Woman."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-04
- Reviewer: Staff
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. Coming from disparate circumstances, these women nonetheless all seized the astonishing opportunities that grew, ironically, out of the slaughter of the Great War. Lady Diana Cooper (née Manners), a notorious party girl before the war, signed on, against her parents’ wishes, as a nurse with the Volunteer Aid Detachment shortly after the war broke out. She also married Duff Cooper, to her parents’ dismay, but the marriage allowed her the freedom to pursue an acting career. Steamship heiress Nancy Cunard leapt into a disastrous wartime marriage before cultivating both a literary career and a string of notable lovers. On the continent, Tamara de Lempicka fled the Russian Revolution with her husband and daughter, but their economic reversal propelled her into a profitable painting career. Across the Atlantic blossomed the three women who defined Jazz Age America: childhood friends Tallulah Bankhead and Zelda Fitzgerald, and dancer Josephine Baker. Through these marvelous portrayals, Mackrell reminds us why these women continue to fascinate and why their lives had such impact. Illus. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Jan.)