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Group Reads Archive > Flapper - Whole Book Thread

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message 2: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Well, I finished this yesterday evening. I really enjoyed it. It was much better than a lot I've read lately. Read almost like a novel in how fast I was able to read it and it held my attention. I read all of Part One in one sitting Sunday! I really enjoyed all the fashion and actresses info. It's funny, the stuff I enjoyed in the book and with the 20s is the stuff that I kind of hate with how we are now with all the celebrity culture and fashion conscious and all that; sort of what he touches on at the very end mentioning Paris Hilton and the likes. Very interesting. I really enjoyed this book. :)

message 3: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I'm just about to start this one - do you think it will 'travel' well? - Is this a book that would appeal more to an American audience or will it have a more global resonance? - I notice from the blurb on the back that the author is American born but also a profrssor at one of the top UK Universities.


message 4: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 Bronwyn wrote: "Well, I finished this yesterday evening. I really enjoyed it. It was much better than a lot I've read lately. Read almost like a novel in how fast I was able to read it and it held my attention...."

The great majority of Americans were not flappers or bootleggers or went to parties like Gatsby's. The were like the poor soul in The Purple Rose of Cairo, trying to make ends meet and going to the movies for excitement. And you're right about the celebrity culture beginning in the '20's. However if you hate that stuff today, you don't have to expose yourself to it more than on the peripheries of your life. It depends on what media you expose yourself to.

message 5: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Abigail, I think it would travel well. A lot of the people are well-known, and the ones I didn't know it didn't hamper my reading at all. So I think even if there are things that are specifically US, you'd still enjoy it.

Oh, Rochelle, I don't if I don't have to. :) It just seems to seep in everywhere! I hate to say, I don't know The Purple Rose of Cairo, other than Jeff Daniels named his theatre Purple Rose after it... lol

message 6: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 It's a Woody Allen film about a woman during the Depression, whose main outlet from her dreary real life is the escapism of films. Jeff Daniels played a movie actor who steps off the screen and becomes part of her life.

message 7: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments That sounds good. I'll have to track it down. :) Thanks.

message 8: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Does anyone else feel a kind of 'loss' whilst reading this book? - it seems that for all their social advances and innovations women, and society in general, has been ruined by the consumerism, marketing and capitalism that was in its infancy during this period.

message 9: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 And by the Depression and another war. Women went to work for the government during the war, and then went back into the kitchen after. But also, the social advances of the flappers was only among a small proportion of wealthy women. The great majority of women were not flappers and the majority of men were not making bathtub gin.

message 10: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) I am somewhere in the middle of Coco Chanel & her influence on fashion, and the revolution of fashion in the 20's.

I am impressed by the connections the author is able to make in order to paint the paradigm shift that took place in the 20's -- one that puts the paradigm shift of technology & the information age of more recent decades in its proper perspective.

The fact that the flappers were not political and were hell-bent individualists is, to me, the proof of the pudding of the preceeding suffragette movement & resultant 19th amendment. These girls walked the walk... they got to BE the dream the suffragettes had only been able to hope for.

Of course they were extreme in their shallow & hedonist life-style... how could women have reacted any other way after finally being liberated from the convent of conventional, traditional, patriarchal control? These girls were tough & brave & full of a sense of themselves as real people. They tested the limits for every generation of feminists who followed.

I was particularly interested in the description of the breakdown of "family values" and the difference between "courtship" and "dating." It never occurred to me that "dating" was a new, conscious approach to economics, and that it was the agreement of trading meals & entertainment for feminine "favors" that took the control of the relationship out of the hands of the woman (during courtship) and put it into the hands of the man with the wallet. This has me pondering still.

Wonderful book. I am so glad I stumbled into this group just as it won the nomination.

message 11: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The fashion and 'look' of the flapper certainly helped define the flapper as an entity and an historical movement. But for me it seems also to confine them in lots of ways, most notably to an 'elite' group who could afford it but also to a certain moral code and aligned behaviours.

The time period must play an important part here but essentially I see the flapper as 'playing' with new ways of being rather than being in any way a defined movement in the way that feminism is. I don't think the flapper comes across as liberated from patriarchal control - they were financed either by fathers, boyfriends or husbands, they were driving the new capitalist economic society - ad men, movie makers, marketing companies, authors, newspapermen etc etc were fuelling and defining what it was to be a flapper because it was profitable for them to do so (both financially and in personal terms - as per the trading of a hot meal for female company in the big cities). Patriarchy is still in control as far as I can see...and let’s face it, ultimately these women married or met a sticky end!.

I don't think flappers were feminists and I can see why the suffragette movement would struggle with their frivolity, their fashion, their lipstick and 'fast' lifestyles. Equality is not gained this many ways flappers were more enslaved than ever.

I don't see them as brave and I don't see them having a strong sense of themselves. I think that’s the facade they wanted us to see but I think the truth is more that they were confused and followed 'the crowd'. It looked fun, and for the very few - such as Lois Long - it probably was empowering, for the rest I think it was the start of a lack of clarity for women in what it meant to be 'female' in the modern world.

I was sad reading this.


message 12: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments I really enjoyed it, but there definitely parts that were a little sad.

I agree with pretty much everything you said, Ally.

I think there was just a lot of shock value. They were still very much controlled by the men in their lives, and to a lesser extent the older women, and so what could you really do but wear short skirts and smoke and drink to try to differentiate yourself and create something all your own. Yes, most people wound up doing it (it seems) but initially I can see it as just wanting to not be like mom. Does that make sense? I think that's something people still struggle with. No one wants to be like their parents, and this was a time of huge change anyhow so the flapper ways fit into that.

I do think the suffragettes could have worked with the flappers to further their cause and use them to change things, but I understand why they didn't.

message 13: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) I think being sad for a group of young women who were having the time of their lives is a little like saying how sad it is to see children having the time of their life at Disneyland because they aren't able to understand the history of some of the flagrant gender issues in many of Disney's movies.

20-20 hindsight be damned... those women were celebrating and were thrilled with their new freedoms. Did economic reality come up and smack them upside the head somewhere down the line? Probably. Were they dancing inside an illusion of freedom while still being controlled by chauvinists? Definitely.

But just look at the change in fashion between 1900:

and 1920's:

I know which of these women I feel sad for.

message 14: by Linda2 (last edited Jan 25, 2011 04:35PM) (new)

Linda2 Everyone was dancing in an illusion till 1929.

Interesting that hemlines got longer during the Depression, although not as long as before. They stayed down till about 1960.

You can get a good idea of intermediate fashions on Downton Abbey, playing now on PBS. Hemlines still down to the shoes. One daughter bought a new dress that revealed her ankles, shocking her parents. 8 years later she would probably dress like a flapper.

message 15: by Sarah (last edited Jan 26, 2011 08:06AM) (new)

Sarah (pirouette_leaf) The 1920's didn't invent the reckless, vivacious woman. They've always been around and men have always adored them!

I love the 1920's, because I love escapist, childlike people. There's an underlying melancholia that appeals to me. --Of course, I'm referring to literary world! In the everyday world, it was mostly just vapid teenagers blindly rebelling, but I digress.-- People like Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker knew they were sad, knew they were pretending. And, that's the real beauty of it: that wistful knowing.

I don't see it as a rebellion against the patriarchy, no, but one could certainly argue that the flappers were rebelling against the matriarchy, as manifest in their battle with the suffragettes. They sided with men against women, because they didn't understand what their mothers were trying to accomplish. But, that's alright! I'll take the romantically flawed flappers over the drily correct suffragettes any day! At least, in the abstract. And, for us, that's all this really is: a poetic abstraction. They've become representational to us.

The 1920's celebrated wealth, beauty and extroversion. That doesn't mean everyone was wealthy, beautiful, and extroverted. We inject ourselves into the ideal. But, just imagine how much life sucked for those who fell short of it!

And those who lived up to it? Compulsive pleasure-seekers, mostly. And, who compulsively seeks pleasure? People in pain.

message 16: by Ally (last edited Jan 27, 2011 04:18AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "The 1920's didn't invent the reckless, vivacious woman. They've always been around and men have always adored them!

I love the 1920's, because I love escapist, childlike people. There's an underly..."

I agree - its part of what fascinates me about this period - is it refered to as the Belle Epoque? or am I getting confused - but yes, I feel similarly that there was a great displacement in society in the world wars, the politics of fascism & communism, the great depression, flu epidemics etc. The golden age at the end of Queen Victoria's reign had meant a lot of social stability and concrete moral codes. Potentially this allowed a level of innocence to perpetuate and the youth were unprepared for what was coming. rebellion was a sure thing really.



message 17: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 The Belle Epoque was about 1880 to 190.

message 18: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
ooh I thought it was the whole period from the late 1800s to the outbreak of the first world war. For me its a period that represented an age of innocence. A political and social stability existed around this time that was quite unusual in world history. Although I think it was a class based thing at the time - technology and science had made labour cheap so I suppose this was only a golden age for the upper and middle classs and preumably rather harder for the working classes. - This certainly comes out in the fiction of the times I feel.


message 19: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 How about all the revolutions of 1848? Half a dozen countries.

message 20: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
1848 was quite a bit before the Belle Epoque though - I'm tallking late 1800s after Queen Victoria's world domination spree! he he.

message 21: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 Sorry, I misread what you wrote.

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