Denis's Reviews > Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age

Bright Young People by D.J. Taylor
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's review
May 18, 2009

really liked it

With deep insight, understanding, and compassion, D.J.Taylor takes us on a fascinating journey through time, as he revisits the world of the eccentric, young party people who made up the so-called "Bright Young People" crowd. The portrait of this lost generation is at the same time exciting, hilarious, sad - and sobering in more ways than one, considering how it all ended. This is a deeply satisfying book, that manages to recreate the magic of the jazz age without falling into the trap of nostalgia: Taylor's account is actually more tragic than one could expect, and what remains in our mind, more than the delirious and constant parties that have become legendary, is the vulnerability of the generation he writes about. The young people at the core of this true story are, indeed, truly lost, in the most disturbing sense of the word, and their talent for fun is coupled with their talent for self-destruction. Taylor understands that, and writes about it without sentimentality, but with heart and emotion. His book is filled with personalities (some still remembered, some completely forgotten) whose flaws are often very touching (and infuriating!), and all the anecdotes and details bring vividly back to life a bygone era. Taylor has opened a window on a time that makes us dream, but whose reality was not as beautiful as we like to imagine it. A pervasive despair oozes from these pages. And it's uncanny how the way young people have enjoyed themselves decades later remains incredibly similar to what a few madcap heiresses and artists were doing in the aftermath of World War I.
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