Throughout my life, I’ve gotten book recommendations from family and friends, and never really looked elsewhere. But now that I am older, I find myself scouring the internet to find more books to add to my never-shrinking to-read pile. One way I do this is by following an awesome book blog, Book Riot. One day, I was looking for nonfiction suggestions – long story short, I came across a really interesting post that mentioned a book called Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation. I immediately added it, and then decided to go ahead and buy it. Boy am I glad I did! Let’s take a look at this awesome book.
This book focuses on one of the most impressive decades – the 1920s. This was a time for art, freedom of expression, and the birth of motion pictures. The fashion was incredible, the indifference to rules and laws unbelievable, and of course it was a great era for literature – cue The Great Gatsby. Flappers delves into this world by focusing on six prominent and powerful women from that time, Diana Cooper, Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Nancy Cunard, Tamara de Lempicka, and Zelda Fitzgerald.
We get a look into these women’s lives before the 1920s and get a unique chance to watch their careers grow through hard work. We also get to see their lives outside of the limelight, showing who these women were, and that they were more than the pictures they were featured in or the headlines they made.
What I liked about this book was how it not only focused on the glamor of the Roaring 20s and the Jazz Age, but how it also showed the not so nice aspects. The 20s had some amazing aspects such as fashion, dancing, and, of course, new freedoms for women. Women were starting to get more rights, and with the 20s not only came some of those rights, but also sexual freedom, much like the 60s. In fact, Mackrell fully believes that the 20s were a definite precursor to what we would see in the 60s, and sexual liberty, as well as more of a focus on equal rights for women and the Civil Rights Movement (Josephine Baker was a big part of the movement, and I’m sure she still would be if she were still alive). The 20s also helped usher in feminism and throughout the years, it has morphed and grown into what we now know, which is awesome!
However, with the freedoms also came an obsession with drinking and drugs, namely cocaine. Drinking is cool. I like it. I love white wine, and, of course, love local craft beers, (though I don’t do the whole party thing. See: Introvert) but the drinking of the Roaring 20s really makes most millennial partiers look rather stingy. Many of the people featured in this book drank from the time they woke up to the time they finally passed out, which was usually around 4 or 5AM. And don’t think they slept until 1PM. No, no. They all had intense jobs, and they had to work hard to maintain their notoriety in the 1920s. Cocaine was a huge way for people to stay afloat amongst the demands of the day after a long night of parties, and some of the women Mackrell talks about seemed to be on it constantly – it was readily available wherever they went.
Some of their lives end tragically, some end with the slow dying of old age, but all had a major impact on the 20s, and the world. Some went into politics, others decided to be more homemakers than flappers, and some went insane. In those times, mental health wasn’t understood very well, which meant it was often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This led to no treatment or the entirely wrong treatment, which made people worse. Regardless of tragedy, it was still incredible to see some of these lives take place and read about a snippet of history that is still popular today. How could we not be proud of the era? It helped spur on movements and made an indelible impact on the course of modern history.
I really enjoyed this book and loved getting to see a different glimpse of the 20s. It was an engrossing read, and I found myself thinking about it when I had to be doing other things. A sign of great book! I will go ahead and offer a warning – there is course language in this book and I’ll add a trigger warning for sexual violence, suicide, depression, and racism, as these ran rampant throughout the 20s. I don’t want anyone to be taken off guard when they start this book!
Do you plan on reading this? Let me know!