The forefront British dance critic and award-nominated author of Bloomsbury Ballerina presents a revisionist assessment of the movement that shattered the boundaries of conventional femininity through the lives of six figures that exemplified it, including Lady Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka.
Personally the one thing that bugged me about the book was its comments about celebrity. These woman were the celebrities of their day. They struggled with combining their public and private lives. Yet I shudder tho think that in 80 or 90 years people will be reading about the likes of the
Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Miley, etc. I would prefer to live in a world where they are insignificant.
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.
These women styled themselves, they did the both-ends-burning trick, and some lived to change. Social action was not high on their list in the 20's. The Great War ended thinking of anything but get mine. Then the 30's burnt out their candles (both ends). The book follows them until they fully snuffed out, some handling it better than others.
Flappers contains extensive notes, bibliography and index.
It's a joy for the reader that appreciates precision in research.
This literary work includes the life tales of 6 women who defined the Jazz Age—Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka...
We search primarily their formative years and encounters in the 1920's.
But, we do move on and experience the oft occuring repercussions of their living in unprecedented style.
Their experiences are definitely exceptional.....they are brash, defiant, audacious re-inventors of self....they extended beyond envisioning and claimed as a right "a life beyond marriage and motherhood"
....."a violent disruption of almost all the standards, conventions and values current in the previous epoch" (Aldous Huxley)
"Willing to run the risks of their independence as well as enjoy its pleasures, there were good reasons for them to be perceived as women of a dangerous
generation." (introduction Flappers Judith Mackrell)
This is by far the most shocking and comprehensive work that I've read, emerging from beneath the "flapper" umbrella.