Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Bright Young People by D. The Rise and Fall of a Generation by D. The Rise and Fall of a Generation 3. The Bright Young People were one of the extraordinary youth cults in British history. A pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites, they romped through the s gossip columns. But the quest for pleasure came at a price. This work talks about of England's 'lost generation' of the Jazz Age.
Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Bright Young People , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Dec 11, John rated it it was ok. I would never have thought that anyone could write a book about the Jazz Age that could be so sleep-inducing!
The author constantly goes into tedious detail where it is not warranted. The core group of the Bright Young People of London in the 's were the first people, via modern media, to be famous for being famous. They had no special talent or skills so how much can you write about them? There were some people on the edge of this group, such as Evelyn Waugh, who went on to greater accompl I would never have thought that anyone could write a book about the Jazz Age that could be so sleep-inducing!
There were some people on the edge of this group, such as Evelyn Waugh, who went on to greater accomplishments. In the case of Elizabeth Ponsonby, the author seems to have committed to paper everything he managed to find on her. However, Elizabeth's only claim to fame was that she was great fun at parties.
A Wikipedia article on her has been deleted on this basis. She did sponge off her long-suffering parents until her premature death from drink in her late thirties, but she's not the first person in history to have done that. Yet the author gives much space to her story, quoting extensively from her father's diary where one or two quotations would have sufficed. I'd give this 1. There is some interesting information here, but it is lost in a morass of insignificant detail. Mar 29, M. Hudson rated it liked it.
I had very little interest in reading this book, and it took me awhile to get hooked by it, but I do recommend it, flawed though it is. It seems every era of prosperity has its brat pack of flibbertigibbit young people with too much time on their hands, too much cleverness and not enough enduring talent. Or whatever street that was. I can never keep this straight. But in the s, the BYP were echt-English with the exception of a few of them who wound up becoming Nazis and to some extent held the attention of the world, or at least the English tabloids.
Affluent young people doing silly stuff. Such gorgeous waifs add nothing to the culture, nothing to the economy except spending lots in the frou-frou market. So I slogged on and found the book to have been well worth the effort. This is why it took my 4 months to read this thing, because I found this opening stuff competent but rather underwhelming and again, my lack of interest in the subject contributed to my lack of enthusiasm. To be honest, except for Waugh and the other literary lights I had trouble keeping the names straight.
But the true heart of the story came to my attention about halfway through when I noticed increasing references to elderly MP and diarist Arthur Ponsonby and his wife Dorothea and his alcoholic trainwreck BYP daughter Elizabeth and the man she was briefly married Denis Pelly. This Ponsonby material, from what I can tell, is significant.
The love for his hopeless, helpless, yet charming daughter Elizabeth is very, very moving. And yet the reader will find that Taylor buries the Ponsonbys to the extent that they are just another casualty in BYP-era decade-long on-going catastrophe. So the Ponsonby heart of this book is mostly lost in a whirl of BYP shenanigans. For instance, one of my favorites of the BYP is Brian Howard, a failed writer and poet of substantial but squandered talent. Indeed, almost all writers are failures in the big, enduring sense of the word.
Taylor is far more impressed by forgettable but relentlessly productive hacks such as Robert Bryon. Making sure one establishes a career and stays comfy seems to be the benchmark of literary success for Taylor. Even outside literary matters, Taylor is a meanie. For instance, the pathetic but rather dazzling, I must say, based on a photo published in the book morphine addict Brenda Dean Paul comes in for some heavy-handed snarky Lindsay Lohan treatment.
As it turns out, his wife and his wealth made him party central -- at the end of the book, we are told that Guinness was conservative and conscientious, wanting nothing more than to raise a family and did so, having a bunch of kids by his second wife and generally live a responsible life.
That I still drink Guinness Stout is a testament to his business acumen. And yet Taylor is capable of balance and compassionate good sense. What is strange is the fact he is best at the hard cases. For instance, some of the louche, desperate, and occasionally talented hangers-on orbiting the core of the BYP self-immolating super nova are rendered very deftly by Taylor.
Likewise, outsider Inez Holden is also nicely sketched.
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It would be easy to pile on Diana and Unity, who greatly admired and met and dined with and practically defected to Hitler. The s were very confusing politically and yet it was almost mandatory that everybody be very, very, terribly sure of themselves. As Martin Amis notes, the fascists wind up being universally deplored while the Stalinists of the era are still given an astonishing amount of slack. But then almost nobody did, except Winston Churchill. But I digress and grossly over-simplify. The Germans patched her up and shipped her back to England. Even Goebbels had no use for her.
The way he gently oh so gently tries to goad her into writing well rather than slovenly is sometimes funny, sometimes nauseating. But Connolly is weirdly, inexcusably absent. The photos themselves are terrific in this book, but nonsensically arranged and cropped, and infuriatingly captioned half the time. The bulk of the Ponsonby photos are coyly identified by first name only see above.
This disjointed postmodern approach to printing photos in books seems to have become an editorial trend, one that needs to stop right now. Note to editors, or authors, or whoever the hell is responsible: Run the pictures big, clear, and clearly captioned on glossy paper. I thoroughly enjoyed this moving and informative account of the s British band of pleasure-seeking bohemians and blue blooded socialites that comprised the "Bright Young People". Taylor 's fascinating book explores the main events and the key players, throughout the s, s, World War Two and into the post-WW2 era.
I encountering many names that I was already quite familiar with e. Cecil Beaton, Elizabeth Ponsonby, the Jungman sisters, Patrick Balfour, Diana and Nancy Mitford, Bri I thoroughly enjoyed this moving and informative account of the s British band of pleasure-seeking bohemians and blue blooded socialites that comprised the "Bright Young People". Theses include Mad World: A Social History of Great Britain, Elizabeth Ponsonby's story looms large in this book, as D.
Taylor had access to her parents' diaries. In the late s and early s, she was a staple in the gossip columns who seized upon the Bright Young People's adventures and reported them with a mixture of reverence and glee. There was plenty to report: In a sense this is what the s is best remembered for, and for some it must have felt right, after the trauma of World War One, and with Victorian values in decline, for young people to enjoy themselves.
However, beneath the laughter and the cocktails lurk some less jolly narratives. Taylor manages to dig beneath the glittering surface where for every success story Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton both launched very successful careers via the opportunities the Bright Young People scene afforded them there were also tales of failure and tragedy.
Some Bright Young People managed to adapt and prosper, others either continued their s lifestyles or were forever trapped by their gilded youths. Elizabeth Ponsonby provides the ultimate cautionary tale. She made a half-hearted attempt at acting, and later took a short-lived job as a dress-shop assistant, but basically drank to excess, gave parties and practically bankrupted her parents, who fretted helplessly.
The tone of Vile Bodies captures Elizabeth Ponsonby's routines as glimpsed in her parents' diaries. A harsh and telling view from an eye-witness,and probably closer to the truth than the more hagiographic accounts of the era. As I state at the outset, I really enjoyed this book, and despite having read a few similar accounts, I discovered plenty of new information and this has added to my understanding of this endlessly fascinating era.
I also found it surprisingly moving - the diary entries by Elizabeth Ponsonby's parents are heartbreaking. Recommended for anyone interested in the era of the "Bright Young People". Once I arrived at the second or third chapter I found this book difficult to put down for the night. The style of the writing keeps readers moving along at a fast pace, perhaps reminding us of the frenetic pace of the s themselves. Each prominent "Bright Young Person"'s life and character is detailed, with portraits drawn clearly. After reading this book one almost feels as though one knows each member of the group personally.
Among the members of the group upon whom focus is placed are Nanc Once I arrived at the second or third chapter I found this book difficult to put down for the night. Other, less well-known members of the "Bright Young People" whom we get to know include Patrick Balfour, Brian Howard, Stephen Tennant, and others whose life achievements failed to keep them prominent in the public memory. I'd recommend this book for readers interested in 20th century American culture, the s in particular, and people who are curious about the small group of rich and boisterous youngsters who had so much influence during their time and yet now seem like falling stars - very bright for a moment and then gone.
Nov 10, Alicia rated it it was ok. I fell into this book sort of by accident. It started with reading a couple of the Patrick Leigh Fermor travel books which reminded me that I am fascinated by the period between and , when we were wrenched in my opinion into the modern world -- and the period between WWI and WWII was the new world's childhood.
I picked up Robert Graves' The Long Weekend, a social history of which is a terrific, idiosyncratic read and then plunged into Bright Young People. I am not a bit smar I fell into this book sort of by accident. I am not a bit smarter for having read the book. This is the tale of the young, semi-monied 'smart set' whose parties were the stuff of society sections and scandal. They seem a perfect parallel for the Paris Hiltons and her tribe--not particularly useful, but taking up endless pages of copy.
Taylor wrote the book recently ? He tries hard to draw lessons from them without quite calling them dreadful examples, but the lessons are obvious and, in Taylor's hands, lead to no conclusions. Not counting the escapees like Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton, they are the same lost, shallow or frittered lives that for some reason so enchant us in People Magazine or Star or Us --which I absolutely read every time I have my hair done.
Among my friends, it is legal to read them but illegal to buy them. There is a better book in these stories--more bios would have made interesting reading. I think there may be a pungent, pertinent summation about our interest in the BYP--caught, embarrassed but fascinated by the excesses, sort of sorry we missed some of those type of parties and heartily hoping our kids missed them too. I can't quite say I didn't like it, but it is now on the stack of books destined to be donated somewhere.
Jan 10, Elevate Difference rated it really liked it. As someone who has always described myself as an "old soul," I have a natural predisposition to understanding and appreciating the past. In my opinion, those first fifty years garnered far more snazzier fashions, thought-provoking art, and interesting people t As someone who has always described myself as an "old soul," I have a natural predisposition to understanding and appreciating the past.
In my opinion, those first fifty years garnered far more snazzier fashions, thought-provoking art, and interesting people than just about anything in the latter half. My latest conquest in the last department is a book called Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age, which is a thorough recreation and examination of the life and times of the budding British elite in the roaring '20s.
Taylor, not only provided my fix with his wonderful investigative work, but he also supplied me with the inspiration to find out even more about the people he traces, to read some of the books they wrote, and to finally get my hair waved. For ten or so years, they ruled the celebrity roost with their charming antics, extravagant parties, and bohemian sensibilities. Gin and tonic, bath and bottle parties, and lighthearted feelings were all the rage with this brood.
In the end, though, their hedonism and the prospect and eventuality of war in later years stopped their frolicking and merriment. A number of the Bright Young People failed to escape their hunger for extravagance and succumbed to the effects of alcohol and drugs. Others went to war and perished. Some retired their dancing slippers and hunkered down to a normal life. Many vanished into thin air. Taylor artfully traces the origins of the Bright Young People with the same effervescent touch the people themselves possess.
His language is sassy, sweet, and intelligent.
The beautiful and the damned
Though he covers a lot of ground in the roughly twenty years, the text never feels heavy or meandering. Instead, it sucks you in like a great novel, or a great piece of gossip. Bright Young People will make you laugh while learning about a group of carefree individuals who, at one point or another, actually lived the life many of us dream of living. Review by Sara Freeman Apr 15, David Corvine rated it it was ok.
The exception being the material regarding Elizabeth Ponsonby, the author had access to her family's archive, unfortunately there was little to justify the detail to the point of tedium with which Mr. Taylor treated this individual. She was one of the less significant members of the Bright Young People More seriously than these faults I found a strong vein of homophobia throughout this work. The author makes several remarks about homosexuals being predators and is dismissive of the courage of those brave enough to live their lives openly despite facing prison and social disapproval.
Jul 07, Jennifer rated it it was ok Shelves: With their older siblings and friends dead on the battlefields of France, Mayfair's jeunesse doree spent much of the s acting out as outrageously as possible, the celebrity gossip columns in the hottest pursuit. This book picks over their, in many ways, tragic lives.
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, which sends up the same set, tells the story better. Feb 27, Annie Garvey rated it liked it. This book is probably a little too esoteric for me. I found the story of Elizabeth Ponsonby and her parents Arthur and Dorothea heartbreaking.
Bright Young People: the Rise and Fall of a Generation, by D J Taylor - Telegraph
It's sad that some bright young things never know when to leave the party. This is a bit dry and reads like a thesis. It would have benefited greatly from tighter editing to cut repetition and correct a tendency to wander. I recommend Serious Pleasures: View all 3 comments. Mar 26, Steve rated it really liked it Recommends it for: British, s, post-WW1, upper-class, youth culture.
Bright Young People is an enthusiastic romp through the history of the most fascinating celebrity youth movements of the early British twentieth century.
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Similarly, in Christmas Pudding, Mitford talks about one of her characters being "a keen Byzantinist and, like all such, extremely sensitive on the subject": Sometimes, the joke can involve a single person. The inspired use made of the adjective "sheepish" in Vile Bodies as in "a perfectly sheepish house" stems from the promise made by Waugh to the year-old Jessica Mitford that he would somehow include her pet lamb in the text. At the same time, these connections go beyond an immediate social grounding to take in influence, technique, construction, the whole question - in a literary landscape that took these affiliations very seriously - of aesthetic standpoint.
These marker-flags were not always narrowly literary. Waugh, Powell and Green, for instance, were conscious of the impact of cinema on their work, to the point where their novels often seem to be composed in a kind of filmic shorthand, cutting sharply from scene to scene and put together out of ricocheting one-liner dialogue. Green described his second novel, Living , as "a kind of very disconnected cinema film". Vile Bodies' action swings violently from character to character and room to room, sometimes in no more than the space of a single sentence.
Powell, too, was an obsessive cinematophile, who went on to earn a precarious living scripting "Quota Quickies" - films designed to meet the legal requirement that a certain proportion of the material shown in British cinemas should be home-grown at the studios in Teddington. Much more deliberate, though, was the literary context, where influences ranged from the commercial mainstream to the fanatically obscure. In the first category lay The Green Hat, Michael Arlen's bestseller from , whose man-eating heroine "Iris Storm" is transparently the inspiration for "Imogen Quest", the phantom ornament of Vile Bodies' gossip columns.
In his memoirs, Powell maintains that, arriving in London in the autumn of , he took rooms in the seedy Mayfair thoroughfare of Shepherd Market simply because it was there that the novel's opening scene - a discreet, late-night seduction - is set. Even more seductive than Arlen's suggestive dialogue, his one-night stands in Mayfair lodgings, his roguish intimations of clubland naughtiness, were the novels of Ronald Firbank , whose impact on the mainstream writers of the s and s was out of all proportion to their meagre sales.
Set in fantastic never-never lands or more familiar environments twisted radically out of kilter, Firbank's fiction advertises a wit so delicate that it can scarcely be identified, borne forward by scraps of rococo dialogue, the whole invariably undercut with intimations of deep unease, often extending to outright tragedy.
Bright Young People with literary leanings rushed as one to acclaim him as their mentor. Brian Howard thought Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli , which ends with the cardinal dropping dead in hot pursuit of an attractive choirboy, "the wittiest book ever written". Waugh wrote an enraptured essay for Life and Letters in which he proposed that Firbank "achieved a new art form", and borrowed his technique of advancing the plot-line solely by way of dialogue for Decline and Fall's school sports day sequence. Cloaked as they are in an atmosphere of unremitting frivolity - parties, failed seductions, pleasure jaunts across the Home Counties - the themes of Bright Young fiction take some time to declare themselves.
But beneath the succession of witless conversations shrieked out by groups of empty-headed hedonists lies something much more disquieting. Unsurprisingly, the fundamental concerns of Bright Young novels turn out to be those of the movement itself: The future, as conceived by a Powell, a Mitford or a Waugh, is never a rosy blur but something sharp, hard and ominous. A sense of futility consequently envelopes the social gatherings of which the novel consists like a shroud: Afternoon Men ends as it begins, with Atwater and his chum Pringle loafing in a bar and exchanging desultory gossip about mutual friends.
Married in the autumn of to a boyish-looking aristocratic demoiselle named Evelyn Gardner, shortly before the publication of Decline and Fall, Waugh spent the early part of on a Mediterranean cruise designed to restore his wife's uncertain health. The trip was not a success. Unwell when they set out, She-Evelyn, as she was known, fell seriously ill with a combination of pneumonia and pleurisy. By the time the couple arrived back in England in June, they were deeply in debt.
He-Evelyn resolved to sequester himself in the Oxfordshire countryside and get on with his second novel while his wife enjoyed herself in London. Perhaps a quarter of Vile Bodies was complete by the moment in early July when She-Evelyn informed her husband that she was in love with a man called John Heygate. Strenuous, but unavailing, attempts were made to save the marriage. The novel ground to a halt. Then, in late summer, while on holiday with his friends the Guinnesses, Waugh resumed work, conscious of the drawbacks of writing a supposedly comic novel in the aftermath of emotional breakdown.
Several critics have noted the dramatic change of mood that sweeps over Vile Bodies at the beginning of its seventh chapter - the point at which Waugh broke off to attend to the crisis in his domestic affairs. Within three pages of its resumption, there is an aside about "cocktail parties given in basement flats by spotty announcers at the BBC" - a clear reference to Heygate's livelihood.
For some time afterwards, Waugh referred to Heygate as "the basement boy". The upping of the tempo, from light comedy to something far more caustic, is undeniable and understandable, yet Waugh's change of direction in the two-year creative stretch in which Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies were realised is less marked than it seems. Substantially about the same people, exploring the same themes, reaching more or less the same conclusions, they differ only in their perspective. The Waugh who wrote Decline and Fall in the second half of , shortly after giving up his inglorious career as a schoolteacher, viewed the smart metropolitan world of West End party-going from its margins: Anthony Powell thought most of the detail was picked up from gossip columns.
The Waugh who began Vile Bodies in the early summer of and resumed it in the early autumn was an insider, using language and real-life models that he had listened to and observed at first hand. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. Sponsored products related to this item What's this? A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Let your mind flow with stress-relieving mandalas. Beautiful shapes, geometric designs, exquisite patterns.
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Bright Young People: the Rise and Fall of a Generation, 1918-1940 by D J Taylor
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