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Book of the Month

Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper 

by Linda Simon

In the glorious, boozy party after the First World War, a new being burst defiantly onto the world stage: the ‘flapper’. Skinny, young, impetuous and flirtatious, she was a mysterious, alluring, controversial figure in a culture obsessed with the adolescent girl. In this spirited revisionist history, Linda Simon gives us a fresh, fascinating look at young women’s experiences in America and Britain, from the 1890s to the 1920s, when the ‘modern’ girl emerged, and when girls asked themselves, what do we do with our lives? Who are we? What is our future?

Lost Girls tells a story of girls challenged and often confused by others’ conceptions of who they were, how they were to live, and what they risked to lose. It is a story of youth derided and exuberantly fetishized; of maturity, and most definitely aging, viscerally feared. It is a story of girls evolving into flappers; and a story of women, with the everlasting, inexorable desire to be girls.

Linda Simon introduces us to many of the quintessential flappers, from celebrated actress Colleen Moore to cabaret dancer Irene Castle, and examines the times, culture and places in which they flourished. This is a book dedicated to the ‘not-nice girls’ with ‘bobbed hair and slinky dresses’, to those who danced the bunny hug, grizzly bear, and the sexy tango with abandon, and it illuminates the history of the iconic, mythic flapper as she evolved from a problem, to a temptation, and finally, in the 1920s and beyond, to an aspiration.

Linda Simon is Professor of English Emerita at Skidmore College.

Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper
Reaktion Books
9781780238128
Hardback, £14.99

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