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Book 219: Flappers by Judith Mackrell

Book 219: Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation.
Author: Judith Mackrell, 2013.
Genre: Non Fiction. Biography. Social History.
Other Details: Hardback 488 pages/Unabridged Audio (18 hrs, 16 mins). Read by Julia Franklin.

For many young women, the 1920s felt like a promise of liberty. It was a period when they dared to shorten their skirts and shingle their hair, to smoke, drink, take drugs and to claim sexual freedoms. ...In 'Flappers', acclaimed biographer Judith Mackrell follows a group of six women - Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka - who, between them, exemplified the range and daring of that generation's spirit. For them, the pursuit of experience was not just about dancing the Charleston and wearing fashionable clothes. They made themselves prominent among the artists, icons, and heroines of their age, pursuing experience in ways that their mothers could never have imagined, seeking to define what it was to be young and a woman in an age where the smashing of old certainties had thrown the world wide open.

Talented, reckless and wilful, with personalities that transcended their class and background, they re-wrote their destinies in remarkable, entertaining and sometimes tragic ways. And between them they blazed the trail of the New Woman around the world.
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

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.
Tags: biography, feminist, non-fiction
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