Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood (Hardcover)
A Publishers Weekly Summer Reads Selection
The modern romance novel is elevated to a subject of serious study in this addictively readable biography of pioneering celebrity author Elinor Glyn.
Unlike typical romances, which end with wedding bells, Elinor Glyn’s (1864–1943) story really began after her marriage up the social ladder and into the English gentry class in 1892. Born in the Channel Islands, Elinor Sutherland, like most Victorian women, aspired only to a good match. But when her husband, Clayton Glyn, gambled their fortune away, she turned to her pen and boldly challenged the era’s sexually straightjacketed literary code with her notorious succes de scandale, Three Weeks (1907). An intensely erotic tale about an unhappily married woman’s sexual education of her young lover, the novel got Glyn banished from high society but went on to sell millions, revealing a deep yearning for a fuller account of sexual passion than permitted by the British aristocracy or the Anglo-American literary establishment.
In elegant prose, Hilary A. Hallett traces Glyn’s meteoric rise from a depressed society darling to a world-renowned celebrity author who consorted with world leaders from St. Petersburg to Cairo to New York. After reporting from the trenches during World War I, the author was lured by American movie producers from Paris to Los Angeles for her remarkable third act. Weaving together years of deep archival research, Hallett movingly conveys how Glyn, more than any other individual during the Roaring Twenties, crafted early Hollywood’s glamorous romantic aesthetic. She taught the screen’s greatest leading men to make love in ways that set audiences aflame, and coined the term “It Girl,” which turned actress Clara Bow into the symbol of the first sexual revolution.
With Inventing the It Girl, Hallett has done nothing less than elevate the origins of the modern romance genre to a subject of serious study. In doing so, she has also reclaimed the enormous influence of one of Anglo-America’s most significant cultural tastemakers while revealing Glyn’s life to have been as sensational as any of the characters she created on the page or screen. The result is a groundbreaking portrait of a courageous icon of independence who encouraged future generations to chase their desires wherever they might lead.
About the Author
Hilary A. Hallett is the Mendelson Family Professor and director of American studies and associate professor of history at Columbia University. The author of Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood, she has written for the Los Angeles Times.
A new biography of Glyn, ‘Inventing the It Girl,’ by Hilary A. Hallett, restores her to the pantheon of history with great thoughtfulness and taste.
— Alexandra Jacobs - New York Times
Highly readable and deeply researched... Writing with the right touch of occasional humor, Ms. Hallett gracefully restores Glyn’s dignity, defines her intelligence and tells the full story of her remarkable life. She makes Elinor Glyn matter.
— Jeanine Basinger - Wall Street Journal
Hallett’s sense of history makes this a biography rich in detail . . . . the “It Girl” and her creator had a profound impact on modern attitudes to love and sex — one that echoes today, long after Glyn’s name has faded, in a romance novel’s eternal promise to sweep the reader away.
— Joanna Scutts - Boston Globe
[A] page-turning account . . . Hallett is equally at home chronicling the contours of Glyn’s life, decaying English aristocracy, and the glamour of Hollywood, easily conjuring her subject and the events and cultural shifts that shaped her. This one brings the goods.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
A brilliant, thought-provoking portrait of a forgotten 20th-century influencer. . . . Hallett creates a vivacious, intellectual, and fascinating narrative, and her impressive research effectively highlights an extraordinary life that aimed to ‘let loose the genie of women’s sexual liberation.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Hallett’s biography puts Glyn’s glittering influence in its historical context. It’s a thoroughly readable chronicling of a woman whose influence spanned generations.
— Susan Maguire - Booklist