The Jazz Age: A Quick Tour: Background information when reading A Certain Age

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A Certain Age

A Novel

by Beatriz Williams

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams X
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 384 pages

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The Jazz Age: A Quick Tour

This article relates to A Certain Age

Print Review

A Certain Age is set in the 1920s in America, known as the Jazz Age.

The author F. Scott Fitzgerald whose novel, The Great Gatsby was one of the defining publishing events of the decade, labeled the Jazz Age so because jazz as a music form became increasingly popular during this time especially in big cities like New York and Chicago.

The African Americans who were at the forefront of this new music included greats such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Trendy music nurtured new dance moves such as the Charleston and the youth in general dived into the decade giddy after the end of World War I.

The Flapper Women had just won the right to vote in 1920 and the image of the "flapper," a young lady with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank and smoked and cursed, became cemented during this decade even if she was not quite as frequent a phenomenon as she was touted to be. The book cover of A Certain Age shows a flapper.

The 1920s was also when Prohibition, a ban on alcohol, fully kicked into place having been instituted in 1919. Speakeasies that served booze illegally filled the void. It was only in 1933 that Prohibition was repealed by which time the Great Depression had squarely taken the wind out of many people's sails.

Radio broadcasts in the United States began in 1920. The decade is also remembered for notable medical advancements such as the discovery of penicillin (in Britain) and insulin (in Canada), and for Charles Lindbergh's first transatlantic flight. This was also the era of Babe Ruth, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The Swinging Jazz Age was bookended by more somber times, World War I on one side and the Great Depression on the other, but while it lasted, for some it was a time when, as Fitzgerald once described it, "the parties were bigger, the pace was faster, the buildings were higher, the morals looser."

Picture of The Flapper courtesy Ellen Bernard Thompson Pyle

This "beyond the book article" relates to A Certain Age. It originally ran in July 2016 and has been updated for the January 2017 paperback edition.

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