This week’s column is all about scandalous and unconventional women. From fictionalized narratives of the controversial Zelda Fitzgerald to real-life footage of flappers, your commute will be sassier and more entertaining with these picks.
On Your Kindle
Murder in Montparnasse: A Phryne Fisher Mystery, by Kerry Greenwood
I love this series about a flapper detective, the Honorable Phryne Fisher—it’s pure wish fulfillment. Born to a poor Australian family, Phryne becomes wealthy when her father inherits a title following World War I and proceeds to live raucously: She flies planes, dances the foxtrot, drives fast cars, takes a series of gorgeous lovers, and sets herself up as a society detective. Murder in Montparnasse takes Phryne back to Paris, where she was an ambulance driver during the war.
On Your Smartphone
“10 Things We Learned About Ava Gardner From Her Memoir,” by Jacqueline Mansky, Los Angeles Magazine
Ava Gardner was a fascinating woman. Famed for her beauty, talent, and tumultuous marriages to bandleader Artie Shaw, child star Mickey Rooney, and Frank Sinatra, who was reportedly the love of her life, Gardner was funny, wry, and uncensored.
I’ve visited the Ava Gardner Museum in her North Carolina hometown, but I’m excited to read the new, candid memoir, Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, which is now being released by her estate and was recently covered in this Los Angeles Magazine article. It contains Gardner’s first-hand memories of her wild life in Hollywood and Europe, where she retired after starring in films like The Killers, The Barefoot Contessa, and Mogambo.
On a Podcast
The University of South Carolina has archived this collection of interesting historical footage, including period culture and music. Originally, the footage was shot by Fox's film studio and includes unusual snippets of then-scandalous subjects: flappers and jazz musicians. Watch a bit of the 1920s come to life with this podcast.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler
I’ve earmarked this book for my future reading. Fowler’s well-regarded novel is a fictional exploration of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, the scandalously liberated wife of The Great Gatsby author. Zelda has long been a fascination of mine: A symbol of the jazz age, she struggled to establish her own identity, first as a dancer and then as an author, penning a novel called Save Me the Waltz, which has parallels with her own life. Afflicted by mental illness, that life ended tragically; she died in a mental institution in my home state of North Carolina during a 1948 fire.