The idea of novelizing a real person’s life intrigues me, especially when it involves one of my favorite topics, women’s history. THE FORGOTTEN FLAPPER: A NOVEL OF OLIVE THOMAS by Laini Giles uses the construct of a first-person ghost story as the author takes the bare facts of Olive Thomas’ life and weaves them into a juicy celebrity tell-all from the dawn of the silent movie era.
Thomas went from innocent artists’ model to Ziegfield Follies showgirl and followed a path of sex, booze, drugs and luxury to become one of the best-known actresses in the “flickers” before her sudden death at 25. Famous in her own right, Thomas married into the Pickford family, becoming sister-in-law to Mary Pickford but never retaining her place in pop culture history as Mary did.
Giles paints a complex picture of a complicated woman who was uneducated yet curious, loyal but quick-tempered and impressively independent in an age when women were fighting for the right to vote. Thoroughly researched and historically accurate, the book recaptures the voice and feel of a long forgotten chapter in show business, and the period settings come alive. It's easy to see turn-of-the-century New York City and Los Angeles in your mind, thanks to Giles' detailed and vibrant sense of place.
THE FORGOTTEN FLAPPER was an enjoyable read, and apparently is the first of a historic series from Giles. Somewhere in the Great Beyond, Olive Thomas is celebrating being in the spotlight again.