Biography & Memoir Flappers by Judith Mackrell | Reviews | The Omnivore

Published on June 12th, 2013


Flappers: Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell

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Blurb: 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.

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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 wilful, 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. (Macmillan)

When flappers ruled the earth: how dance helped women’s liberation | Judith Mackrell | The Guardian

Cressida Connolly, The Telegraph 

Flappers is all good, dirty fun. Judith Mackrell makes no bones about the vigorous sex lives of her subjects … But Flappers isn’t only fluff. Mackrell is an engaging storyteller with a deceptively light touch which allows her to introduce serious details of social history, like vitamins into breakfast cereal, without altering the flavour. She is especially good on the correlation between music and morals.”

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Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday

“Mackrell enjoys the biographies of her six flappers too much, I think, to want to over-analyse the social and cultural implications of the phenomenon … 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.”

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Kate Colquhoun, The Sunday Express

“Mackrell interweaves these intense lives with rich detail of their wider worlds, charting mutual friendships, the ease of modern travel and the bars, clubs, newspaper magnates, novelists, artists, rivals and grifters seasoning New York, London and Paris. She writes beautifully, peppering her prose with their sly one-liners and her own insights, while maintaining a pace as swift as the exhausting lives she describes.”

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Bee Wilson, The Sunday Times

“The advantage of Mackrell’s more intimate perspective … is that it offers a way to look beyond the clichés of the Roaring Twenties into what was actually going on in these women’s heads. Mackrell — who writes with great brio — shows us the uncertainty and confusion that often lay behind the brittle artifice.”

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Anne Sebba, Literary Review

“The strength of this compelling book derives from the cumulative effect of so much pain and suffering endured by these once hopeful young, pioneering women.”

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Helen Zaltzman, The Observer

“Despite the absence of jazz in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, its release is bound to be accompanied by a rash of books about the jazz age, of which Judith Mackrell’s Flappers is likely to be one of the better ones … Josephine Baker is the highlight”

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Bel Mooney, Mail on Sunday 

“… a terrific read.”

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Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian 

“Mackrell’s biography of [Lydia] Lopokova was a thrilling one, deeply researched and scrupulously avoiding the cliches that tend to appear whenever “Bloomsbury” is lodged in the title. In Flappers, though, Mackrell seems to have lost her ability to stand clear of her subjects’ noisy self-promotion. While Tamara, Tallulah et al crash around being frankly annoying we are repeatedly nudged to admire their dash and daring. But there is a limit to how many times you can read about parties at which someone rode in on a baby elephant or wore gold-laced slippers or said something witty that they had almost certainly been rehearsing for days.”

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