Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney

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Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Collection of trivia is good fun to dip into despite lacking any real insight into the decade it covers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Virgin
ISBN: 978-0753540978

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According to the summary I read of Bright Young Things before choosing the book to read, it 'takes a sweeping look at the changing world of the Jazz Age'. I was expecting it to be something of a narrative account of the Roaring Twenties – in actual fact, it's set out as a collection of trivia about the decade. Similarly, the 'first person accounts' mentioned on the inside front cover are limited to two or three sentence quotes.

The slight grumbling about the blurb being open to misintrepretation aside, then there's some really interesting information in the book. It's easy to dip into, with most of the pieces being between half a page and a page long, while they're set out into chapters such as 'Upstairs, Downstairs', 'Cocktail Hour' and 'Fashion in a Flap'. A particular strong point is 'Who's That Boy/Girl' which provides brief profiles and quotes from celebrities of the age, including Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. Elsewhere, eye-opening information is found, including the prices of food and drink in nightclubs of the time – and just how much these were increased after hours! It also has a nice mix of the extremely famous personalities such as Waugh, Mitford and the Fitzgeralds and some who are perhaps less familiar to many readers today, including nightclub owner Kate Meyrick and Rosa Lewis, whose rise from kitchen maid to cook to hotel owner inspired 'the Duchess of Duke Street'.

What's rather lacking, though, is any real thread to the book. Perhaps that's because my expectations, as I mentioned earlier, were for something slightly different – but I can't help thinking some sort of strand to hold it together would have made for a more interesting read than just a couple of dozen bits of trivia on each of the subjects covered. The conclusion, despite being only around a page long, is well-written and gives a brief insight into the end of the era brought on by events including the Wall Street Crash in the USA and the General Strike in the UK – I'd have loved there to have been more thoughtful pieces like this in the book.

If you're looking for something insightful I'd perhaps consider a different book but for a collection of trivia which will give you a good feel for the decade I'm happy to recommend this.

For a meatier study of the years immediately prior to the Roaring Twenties then The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War by Juliet Nicolson is highly recommended.

If you're looking for fiction set in the time period then teen novels Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (in the USA) and Debutantes by Cora Harrison (in the UK) are both excellent.

Buy Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney at

Buy Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bright Young Things by Alison Maloney at


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