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Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  2,286 Ratings  ·  291 Reviews
Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a r ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Broadway Books (first published March 14th 2006)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonSalt by Mark KurlanskyStiff by Mary RoachThe Professor and the Madman by Simon WinchesterThe Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Microhistory: Social Histories of Just One Thing
91st out of 1,140 books — 1,756 voters
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldTrapping the Butterfly by Debra ParmleyBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughThe Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha ChristieThe Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
I am '20s, hear me roar!
35th out of 262 books — 129 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 21, 2013 El rated it liked it
Recommended to El by: Dicker
Learn how to do the Charleston in just a few easy steps.

This book wasn't especially on my radar except a coworker brought it for me to read because I had previously brought her Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America, and sharing books might just be something we're doing now. She said she had a little difficulty reading this one because it's not in an especially linear fashion, which I understood what she meant while I read it. But it didn't bother me so much. It's hard to be entirely linear about a
Books Ring Mah Bell
Feb 01, 2009 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it liked it
Shelves: womens-interest
Quick read on an amazing era... What an effect these rebel women had on things! Advertisements, movies, music, sports and women's rights were all touched by the "Flapper Age." Thank you, ballsy women, for getting us out of corsets and allowing us to enjoy a drink if we choose. Damn you, Flappers, for putting the focus on appearances.

This book had too much information on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was interesting, but I won't be revisiting The Great Gatsby anytime soon. The book also gave
Dixie Diamond
I thought this was a load of fun, and I thought it brought up some interesting points that don't always come up when reading about life in the Twenties (such as the question of miserable wages for women and minorities even as ready-made clothes became available and standards of living improved), but from the perspective of the Twenties aficionado and armchair historian, I would have liked more depth.

My two minor complaints were that--and this is mostly a matter of taste--I wanted a little more i
Apr 01, 2008 Kristi rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who's interested in knowing more about the 1920's
A fairly informative read and a pretty good view of the big societal shake-up that happened from the late 1800's to the late 1920's.

I've always had a huge crush on the Jazz Age anyway, from Dorothy Parker to F. Scott Fitgerald and all the shenanigans and acerbic wit (would that I could have eavesdropped on the Algonquin Round Table), from fashions to music to design, but it was interesting to read how the monumental cultural changes actually came about. Perhaps it's just me, but I found the sec
Sep 17, 2015 Anna rated it liked it
Shelves: nf-history-bio
"Like so many successor movements in the twentieth century, the flapper phenomenon emphasized individuality, even as it expressed itself in conformity."

The book is divided into 3 main sections -- each one has a central character around which all the other anecdotes revolve.
The first section features Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and tells the story of the general social changes which were occurring almost overnight. But of course, the spotlight is on the chronicling of the period.
The second section
Dec 11, 2007 Kirk rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 20s fans
Shelves: medium-warm
An enjoyable though not necessarily deep book. I came to it looking for something new about Zelda Fitzgerald and really found nothing I hadn't already heard a dozen times before. In fact, it says something about Zeitz's awareness of critical histories of the 20s that he cites Sara Mayfield's EXILES FROM PARADISE, a book generally viewed as a hatchet job on Scott Fitzgerald. That said, FLAPPER has some good pictures and interesting factoids. Ultimately, it's an example of how nonfiction books aim ...more
Dec 15, 2014 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-st, non-fiction

“It was never clear whether Scott Fitzgerald ‘invented’ the flapper, ‘discovered’ her, or exploited her.”

From the untenable mores of the Victorian-Era to the ‘Unaffordable Excess’ of the Jazz Age; the opening decades of the twentieth century saw western culture turned on its head. Style, celebrity, journalism, fashion, consumerism, entertainment, and most especially, attitudes all underwent radical changes in a very short span of time. And aren’t we the
Dec 04, 2011 Mitch rated it it was amazing
I have been really into reading historical non-fiction books as of late. I am sort of making my way into the early 20th century. I started with "Devil in the White City" which takes place at and before the Chicago World's Fair in the 1890's, moved to "Sin in the Second City" about turn of the century prostitution, and now here comes the Jazz Age in full swing in the 1920's with Joshua Zeitz's "Flapper". And of all three of these historical books, "Flapper" is by FAR the best.

I love the roaring 2
Jan 23, 2011 Ally rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
For me Zeitz has managed to strike the right balance between academic history and journalistic style making this a very entertaining read with just the right amount of substance. The main 'characters' - The Fitzgeralds, Lois Long, Clara Bow etc - were brought to life again and act as a focus to tell the story of a new 'modern' generation. I was disappointed however that the story did not play out as I had imagined it to. These were not pioneers of feminism but very confused women. The hedonism a ...more
Feb 02, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
The 'Roaring Twenties' was such a wild, fascinating decade in American history: the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of the 'talkies', Art Deco, Prohibition, gangsters, 'It' girls, the latter exemplified, of course, by the 'flapper'. We all know what we picture when we hear the word 'flapper' - tall, willowy women, with knife-edge cheekbones, rouged lips and cheeks, a black bob, in loose-fitting tube dresses, dropped waists, low backs. She smoked, she drank, she slept around, and ...more
Debra Pawlak
Oct 16, 2015 Debra Pawlak rated it really liked it
This book was extremely thorough. So thorough in fact, it could have been several books (i.e., advertising, evolution of fashion, literature, etc.). I think the title was a bit misleading because the author really dissected the 1920s to include many things besides flappers. I found it a very useful research tool of the era as I am currently writing an article on one of Hollywood's most famous flappers--Colleen Moore. If you are looking for entertainment, you may not find it here, but if you need ...more
Aug 10, 2016 Farrah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative, with lots of background info on popular figures of the period like the Fitzgeralds, Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, Lois Long, and Coco Chanel. I would have liked to learn a little more about women of color during the period, though.

I actually listened to the Audible version narrated by Daniella Rabanni, and I just didn't particularly care for her narration at all. The inflection, the pacing, the tone, some of her pronunciations, and some of the voices she employed ju
Nov 30, 2014 Kerry rated it it was ok
This book may be a good introduction to the Jazz Age for someone who has never read anything about Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, or Clara Bow, but readers already familiar with these figures or the period will find little new information. With the disparate subjects covered--fashion, propaganda/advertising, film, etc., the book would have leant itself to some analysis about flapperdom and its development from a sociological perspective. Unfortunately, the book simply succeeds in piecing togethe ...more
Jul 01, 2014 Jarrah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A social, cultural and biographical history of the flapper phenomenon in 1920s America. That is, the rise of the Jazz Age's New Woman: cigarette smoking, car driving, nightclub hopping, sexually promiscuous and frequently wage-earning; lipstick-wearing, slender, sleekly bobbed and dressed in Chanel.

This is a marvellous book. It's divided into three broadly thematic parts, which can be summarised more or less as The Flapper Lifestyle, The Flapper Look, and The Flapper in Hollywood. But it really
Mar 30, 2008 Kristen rated it liked it
Joshua Zeitz has the reader walk a mile in the satin dancing slippers of these revolutionaries. Zelda Fitzgerald disobeyed her Lie-Still-and-Think-of-the-Empire Victorian mother, and her husband Scott made her a trend-setter. Lois Long (a.k.a. “Lipstick”) held New Yorkers in thrall. Coco Chanel made clothes that made women stronger. Clara Bow and Louise Brooks cast a spell on the country’s new crop of working women with their own money to spend.

Zeitz paints a picture as compelling as a cupid’s b
Branden William
Apr 22, 2014 Branden William rated it liked it
'Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern' is a brief encounter with the symbolic representation of the Roaring Twenties. The flapper-- "the notorious female character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs, dancing in a shockingly inmodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors." She became the female archetype and stood for everything immoral during a period ...more
Nov 13, 2013 April rated it liked it
I liked this book in a breezy sort of way, but I feel it didn't live up to its potential. It improved as it progressed, mainly because the first section was practically a biography of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Not that the Fitzgeralds weren't interesting people or that I expected a book about the flapper not to mention them, it's just that it seemed like too much attention on just two people. Later, after the Fitzgeralds moved to France, the author leaves them alone and actually gets into the ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
An absolutely fascinating look into the flapper phenomenon in the United States in the 1920s. The author uses certain well-known people to focus on per chapter, from the shenanigans of authors (and their wives) like F. Scott Fitzgerald, working women like journalist Lois Long, haute couture designers like Coco Chanel, and of course a slew of silent film movie starlets. I found these anecdotes fascinating and illustrating!

I was also particularly impressed with the stories of "ordinary" American w
Jan 25, 2012 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always found the 1920's an intriguing time period in American history, and this book touched on many of the topics I am most interested in- silent film stars, the advertising industry, development of ready-made fashion and consumer culture, Zelda & F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the role of technology and media in shaping how women viewed themselves as objects, all of which were themes that defined the 20's. The author has obviously done a lot of research, and the chapters read great as sta ...more
Kristen Millstein
Sep 01, 2016 Kristen Millstein rated it it was amazing
This book was everything I look for in nonfiction and history: informative, intelligent, and entertaining. I am writing a story set in the 1920's, and this book was part of my research. It packs in a lot of information. This book spends a lot of time on the Fitzgeralds, who were the Kardashians of the 1920's (except with talent), and also follows the lives of several other influential people. One of the best things was learning about the many smart, modern women of the time. This book is an in-d ...more
May 28, 2008 Heather rated it it was ok
Meh. Honestly, I didn't even finish this book, and I don't think I will. And to think i almost bought it! I was intrigued by the title (of course), and then bored by the middle of the book. In the midst of reading about Coco Chanel, no less! Congrats to the author on making her so ho-hum. A difficult job, but you did it! Also, the writing seemed quite disorganized, which contributed to my constant distractions from the book. I did, however, like the part about Lois Long (aka Lipstick), and found ...more
Aug 06, 2016 William rated it liked it
It was interesting to read about the cultural shifts of the 1920s but I think the author is more obsessed with the figures rather than the big picture trends. I don't like reading accounts that lionize behavior under the guise of objectivity. Unfortunately, this book is guilty on multiple counts.
Mar 05, 2015 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Book Riot 2015 Challenge: Microhistory

Flapper is an engrossing history of the too-brief Jazz Age and the New Woman, with particular focus on important figures of the day: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and Lois Long. I've read a few works on the era, but I came away from Flapper discovering things unknown to me. The author argues for this era as the beginning of mass consumerism in society, with mail-order catalogs nurturing that desire in rural areas.

I enjoyed the book from an histor
Jul 31, 2016 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: history
FLAPPER. (2006). Joshua Zeitz. ***.
I found this book to be a well-written summary of the ‘Flapper’ era – mostly written as a view of the subject from 30,000 feet. The author examines the causes of the development of the Flapper by breaking down the major influences into several categories:
The writing of the period: mostly dwelling on the Fitzgeralds.
The fashion of the period: from high (a study of Chanel) to low (ready-made goods).
New businesses practices: the emergence of advertising as a new f
Pop Bop
Apr 21, 2014 Pop Bop rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Truth Behind the Fiction

You know how everyone more or less considers Tom Wolfe the father of the new journalism and Hunter Thompson the weird uncle of gonzo journalism? Well it seems to me that you might need to go back further and consider F. Scott Fitzgerald. His fiction served as the "new journalism" vanguard for the flapper sensibility and his published interviews, essays, musings and opinion pieces set the framework for how we view that era now and even for how people viewed that cultural e
Mar 31, 2014 Rama rated it liked it
The American culture in transition: The role of flappers in the early feminist movement.

There is an interesting story about the women in 1920s, before the great depression hit the nation, women were loudly making changes in their life styles and demanding equal rights. The very soul and image of the modern American woman was becoming apparent. The flapper was real, the product of compelling social and political forces that converged after WWI. By that time many women were gainfully employed, and
Lizabeth Tucker
During the end of the 1910s through 1929, a New Woman came to life. Consumer driven, directed by films, plays, and magazines of the time, women began to break out of the restrictions of the past. Hair and skirts became shorter, women openly drank and smoked, they could support themselves, and they were having sex. The flapper lifestyle was driven by fashion, newspaper and magazine columns, Hollywood's top actresses, and the torrid and tempestuous romance of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was ...more
Apr 02, 2009 Jenny rated it it was amazing
The author does a great job of fitting in a lot of information in and staying entertaining and only a few times it seemed a little bit all over the place. Everytime I started to think, 'what does that have to do with it' I was answered. I especially liked how he introduced the film flappers and wrapped up the book with how it all ended for the main figures. My only objection is I would have liked an entire chapter on non-white flappers instead of only a couple pages.
Dec 22, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
"Flapper" takes the reader through the post-WWI decade that saw America's youth discard the values that brought their elders into war, and instead embarked on a self-indulgent party where the stock market and hemlines soared. It was a decade of extremes: Prohibition, automobiles, women voting, advertising taking hold-- a tremendous time of social change that made America far more recognizable to today's readers than the time which preceded it.

Zeitz, a historian, sets the historical table nicely
Apr 09, 2015 Carol-Anne rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting book about American culture in the 1920s, from so many angles, pertinent to both women and society as a whole- writers, clothing, advertising, smoking, dating, sex, drinking, starlets, feminism, racism. The book references the personalities of that time - Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Clara Bow, Lois Long, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel, and others. I really enjoyed this book.

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Josh Zeitz has taught American history and politics at Cambridge University, Harvard University, and Princeton University. He is the author of several books on American political and social history and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Dissent, American Heritage, and Mother Jones.

Josh also appeared as a commentator
More about Joshua Zeitz...

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“(…) the New Woman of the 1920s boldly asserted her right to dance, drink, smoke, and date—to work her own property, to live free of the strictures that governed her mother’s generation. (…) She flouted Victorian-era conventions and scandalized her parents. In many ways, she controlled her own destiny.” 14 likes
“(...)"Flapper"— the notorious character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs, where she danced in a shockingly immodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors.” 4 likes
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