Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood

Hilary A. Hallett. Liveright, $32.50 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63149-069-9

Hallett (Go West, Young Women!), a history professor at Columbia University, delivers a page-turning account of the life of Elinor Glyn (1864–1943), a once prominent writer who has been largely lost to history. Glyn spent the first part of her life around the upper classes of late Victorian and Edwardian English society. She married up, cavorted with duchesses, and traveled through Europe and Egypt. By the turn of the 20th century, however, after learning of her family’s mounting debts, she “leaned harder on her pen” and “sought her fortune” in romance novels. She pioneered steamy fiction in a time of heavy censorship, and was known for the “Tiger Queen’’ heroine she “created and imitated” and was named after an “infamous sex scene on a tiger skin.” In the 1920s, Glyn moved to Hollywood, where she honed the idea of “It” or extraordinary sex appeal, and catapulted actor Clara Bow to “It girl” fame with the film It. 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. Agent: Tina Bennett, WME. (July)
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