Book Review

‘When Paris Sizzled’ by Mary McAuliffe

wpbSTORY: When Paris Sizzled vividly portrays the City of Light during the fabulous 1920s, les Annees folles, when Parisians emerged from the horrors of war to find that a new world greeted them one that reverberated with the hard metallic clang of the assembly line, the roar of automobiles, and the beat of jazz. Mary McAuliffe traces a decade that saw seismic change on almost every front, from art and architecture to music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, and, most notably, behavior.

The epicenter of all this creativity, as well as of the era s good times, was Montparnasse, where impoverished artists and writers found colleagues and cafes, and tourists discovered the Paris of their dreams. Major figures on the Paris scene such as Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust continued to hold sway, while others now came to prominence including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as Andre Citroen, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Kiki of Montparnasse. Paris of the 1920s unquestionably sizzled.

Yet rather than being a decade of unmitigated bliss, les Annees folles also saw an undercurrent of despair as well as the rise of ruthless organizations of the extreme right, aimed at annihilating whatever threatened tradition and order a struggle that would escalate in the years ahead. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, Mary McAuliffe brings this vibrant era to life.”

REVIEW: 1922

Ernest Hemingway was born in Chicago to a father with mental problems and a mother who was a voice teacher. One of five siblings, Ernest drove an ambulance in the Great War. He married a young woman of wealth and they moved to Paris where he worked as a reporter.

Now, Adolf Hitler is stirring up trouble in France. We also see the beginning of the silent black and white films. At this time, the Impressionists paints were being snapped up. The big thing to do was parties and heavy drinking.

Americans were drawn to Paris in large numbers totaling around 30,000 at the time. Prices were up and inexpensive housing was scarce, but many restaurants catering to Americans and their food preferences were opened. In 1924, Paris hosted the Summer Olympics Games.

Josephine Baker hit Paris like a bombshell. A black woman, here she was readily accepted by whites. At this time, Paris enjoyed jazz and the black musicians who played it. Art Deco became popular and chic. The Citroen became “the” car even though Renault fought to stay viable.

Jazz continued to be very popular. It was termed “le jazz hot.” Josephine Baker had become so popular that she opened her own club called Chez Josephine.

Josephine Baker started to break into films and soon proved herself to be a true diva. Hemingway had divorced his wife, Hadley, and was about to marry Pauline. This was also the time that Charles Lindbergh flew his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris. Coco Chanel became a great philanthropist but her models were paid a mere pittance. The well-known restaurant, La Coupole, opened in December of this year and became a huge hit serving more than 1,000 people a day. It was then that Charles de Gaulle began to gain recognition.

George Gershwin came to Paris in 1928 and began work on An American in Paris. Josephine Baker has grown bored with Paris and decided to take a European tour. The Citroen still continued to be a popular car and in 1928, one-third of all cars were a Citroen. The company was able to produce 800 cars a day.

The October 1929 Wall Street Crash did not affect France as much as it did America and Britain. But many saw the end of the decade to be the end of the good days. Before long, many of the expats living in France soon began to feel the effects of having less money to spend. Les annees folles were nearly over.

This book depicts various authors of the period such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein who coined the name “The Lost Generation” which was a large group of literary and artistic expatriates living in Paris in the 1920’s. There are artists, writers, and musicians all looking to share their talents. I have touched on just a few of the famous people who lived and worked in Paris during this time period.

I enjoyed the book immensely. Having lived in Paris, I am familiar with a lot of the things I read about here and it was very interesting to see it all together in one book.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b


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