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Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940 Paperback – 2 Oct 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (2 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099474476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099474470
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Taylor writes with such skill and aplomb that it's impossible not to be swept along by the intelligence and observations" (Guardian)

"Shrewd and absorbing in his analysis of the way Waugh and Nancy Mitford promoted the world they would soon skewer in fiction" (Sunday Times)

"Moving and always entertaining" (Jane Stevenson Daily Telegraph)

"The depth and integrity of Taylor's research can only inspire awe and admiration." (Sunday Express)

"D J Taylor's enthusiasm, delivered with the zeal of a recent convert, proves there is fascination even in empty living and that the Bright Young Brigade of the 1920s are just as worthy of a book or two as Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Tamara Beckwith, Calum Best and all the flapping 'It-people' of our own generation" (Alexander Waugh Literary Review)

Review

`his engaging portrait of another age'

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on 12 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant anatomy of 'the Bright Brigade' - that generation of eccentric, aristocratic and moneyed young men and women who partied their lives away with such determined frivolity in the decade and a half after the Great War before the Depression, Fascism and another looming international conflict was to bring them crashing back down to earth. The book is extremely well researched and beautifully written, as one would expect given that the author is both a distinguished biographer (of Orwell and Thackeray) and a fine novelist. But what really struck me was the fact that Taylor is not in the least judgemental about these brittle young Bohemeians and their silly escapades. Instead of showing them to be dissolute and unsympathetic he reveals the sense of melancholy and futility that lay beneath their lives with the unceasing round of parties and 'amusing' entertainments. More importantly Taylor reveals the literary legacy that this lost generation has left behind, notably in the novels of Waugh, Powell and Nancy Mitford. If you're interested in the glamorous and eccentric personalities of the 1920s and early 30s then this excellent book is for you.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Throughout much of the 1920s, Londoners had a front-row seat to the antics of a small group of socialites about town. These young men and women staged lavish parties, disrupted activities with scavenger hunts and other stunts, and provided fodder for gossip columnists and cartoonists. This group, dubbed the 'Bright Young People,' was fictionalized in novels, recounted in memoirs, and is now the subject of D. J. Taylor's collective history of their group.

An accomplished author, Taylor provides an entertaining account of the group. He describes its members - which included such people as Stephen Tennant, Elizabeth Ponsonby, Brian Howard, Bryan Guinness, and Diana Mitford - and the antics that often attracted so much attention. Yet his scope is also broadened to include people such as Cecil Beaton and Evelyn Waugh, socially on the fringe of the group and yet important figures whose interactions with them prove highly revealing. Through their works and the sometimes obsessive coverage they received on the society pages he reconstructs the relationships and the events that captivated the public's attention.

From all of this emerges a portrait of a phenomenon that was in many ways a unique product of its time. In the aftermath of the demographic devastation of the First World War, the 1920s was a decade that saw the celebration of youth, all of whom grew up in the shadow of a conflict that was the dominant experience of men and women just a few years older than them. The survivors lived in a world where the older generations were discredited and traditional social structures faced increasing economic pressures.
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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. R. on 14 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If we think that it's a new thing, the way that the gutter press and gossip mags now are obsessed with celebrity, we're wrong. The Bright Young People were there first. I bought this book after reading a review, because I'm interested in one particular person in one particular photograph. I found it enlightening and amusing. The Bright Young People that Taylor writes about were few; no doubt a lot of hangers on described themselves as Bright Young People during and after the event, but this book is about the epicentre, the small group of partygoers who started the trend then either took a back seat, left the country or were destroyed by it. The book concentrates on the essence of the movement, if that's what it was, the people at the heart of it, actual events and the people the newspapers wrote about. It doesn't truly describe a whole generation, just the ones who defined it and the waves they made.
Reading about them, I can see the influence they had on my working class, northern great aunt who gave up a good job as a cook to train as a secretary in London so she could go out dancing in the 1920s. She must have read about them in the press and wanted a part of it. She went on to run the factory that made rivets for Spitfires, then to help at a refugee camp in Italy, spoke four languages and judged dogs at Crufts. The Bright Young People seem to have unleashed a spirit of defiance of convention that spread amongst their generation then was crushed by mid century hardship and censorship. It makes me want to reread Waugh and watch Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things with a better understanding of their list of players.
There have always been upper class scoundrels, fritterers, debtors, drunks, sluts and fallen angels; for me, the way the press and contemporary novelists documented this particular group has the most relevance to present times.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ms Toad on 14 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book, which uses a large amount of original material - letters, diaries of the subjects and their families, as well as more public sources, to discuss this flamboyant and often tragic group in a very sensitive and thoughtful manner, with a good idea of the contemporary context and how this changed with the 1930s. Nice use of language, with something of a flavour of the times.
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