Hedy Kiesler is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, allowing her to evade Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy is also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich's plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself and flees her husband's castle. She lands in Hollywood, where she becomes Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But Hedy is keeping a secret even more shocking than her Jewish heritage: she is a scientist. She has an idea that might help the country and that might ease her guilt for escaping alone -- if anyone will listen to her. A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication.
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This is a fictionalized life of Hedy Lamarr from the age of 19 to 28. Lamarr is best remembered as the stunningly beautiful and exotic Hollywood actress from the 1940’s and 50’s. The author tries to show
The problem I had with the novelization is that I didn’t really connect with the main character. It is 1933 in Vienna. Hedy Kiesler is introduced at just 19, a year after she made the notorious film Ecstasy where she swam naked and had a graphic sex scene with her leading man. She is onstage at the Theater of Vienna and responding to the thunderous applause she is getting for her role as the Empress Elizabeth. Suddenly a parade of ushers carry on dozens of bouquets of roses and lay them at her feet. The mysterious admirer is no other than Friedrich Mandl, a 34 year old arms manufacturer and the richest man in Vienna. Within weeks Hedy is engaged to be married to him. She may or may not actually love him but she follows her father’s advice that a marriage to him would keep her and her parents safe since they are nonpracticing Jews. She is strictly a trophy wife. He runs the household, chooses her wardrobe, and expects her to be a proper hostess to his many business associates. The only thing Hedy can do is listen and this she is good at. She does display a knack for remembering conversations and mentions something she overheard to her husband which helps him in a business deal. Thereafter, he expects her to eavesdrop and report any tidbits which are to his financial or political advantage. Finally, tired of her husband’s dominance and increasing jealous paranoia plus what she hears about the Nazi plans for Jews , she runs away to Hollywood.
The next 90 pages are about Hedy’s Hollywood career. She gets an MGM contract, foils attempts by Lois B Mayer to seduce her by becoming fast friends with his wife, and makes lots of movies few of which she is proud. She hates the frivolity of the Hollywood establishment, hangs about with the refugee community who bemoan the loss of European culture, gets married again and adopts a baby.
Only in the final chapters of the book does the reader get a glimpse of the brilliant Hedy. When a refugee ship filled with children is sunk, she remembers a conversation she had with a German scientist about the problem of guiding a torpedo to its target. She decides to design a guidance system to make torpedoes more accurate and to offer her invention to the US Navy. She and a songwriter friend do this in a few pages. The Navy rejects the design (fortunately she patented it) and she spends the war selling war bonds.
The only hints in the novel to her engineering brilliance are that she was a good student, read her husband’s trade magazines and books from his science library, and understood a problem that eludes both German and US scientists because she spoke to a torpedo expert for an hour at one of her dinner parties. How much more interesting it would have been to read about a woman who was a brilliant engineer but had to forego a career in science because she knew people would judge her for her beauty, not her brain. Instead, she is portrayed as an actress who, with little expertise, somehow manages to invent the field of Spread Spectrum Technology by thinking of a player piano roll
I was completely riveted by this book and found it fascinating. I well remember the actress Hedy Lamarr, having watched many of her old movies on TV when I was young. I also knew that this beautiful actress was also the inventor of a radio guidance system that was eventually used in the development of Bluetooth and Wi-fi. But this book opened up her world to me in such a mesmerizing way. The author has a talent for bringing her characters to life. Parts of this book read like a suspenseful thriller and I couldn’t put it down. Most impressive was the focus the author gave to the difficulties Hedy encountered when she presented her invention to the navy and it was refused simply because they said it would be hard for them to sell their soldiers and sailors on a weapons system created by a woman and that they weren’t even going to try. And this was decided when they had a faulty torpedo system in place. She was told that she would do better selling war bonds. I was so glad to read in a postscript that many years later, in the 1990’s, she was finally given recognition and awards for her invention.
Most highly recommended.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Hedwig Kiestler was born in Austria to a Jewish mother and father. While performing the role of Empress Sisi, she came to the attention of the munitions magnate Fritz Mandl. After a short courtship, his proposal of marriage was seen as a way to protect Hedy from the growing anti-Semitism of the time.
Mandl spoke openly to Hedy about the armaments and munitions he sold. Always the curious one, Hedy read as much as she could about the arms her husband sold and listened in on conversations he held with business partners. The men never imagined that this beautiful woman had any interest in or understood their conversations.
Mandl became more and more controlling and Hedy knew she had to escape his powerful clutches. She flees to England and then to Hollywood where Jewish actors and actresses were fleeing to as they could not perform in Europe. She quickly becomes one of the highest paid performers and is dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world. But over her hangs a cloud of guilt.
Knowing what she did, could she have prevented some of the senseless deaths of European Jews? She now draws on her scientific knowledge to develop equipment to shorten the war thus saving lives. But her real challenge is getting someone to listen to her.
This is a commanding novel based on the true story of actress Hedy Lamarr whose patented idea laid the foundation for secure communications and cellphone technology.
The story was so riveting I flew through the pages losing all track of time. This is a story not to be forgotten.
Marie Benedict does an admirable job of describing the circumstances which forced Hedy Kiesler Mandl to plot, flee and recreate herself to survive. The trip to the United States from London aboard the SS Normandie and her subsequent meeting with Louis B Mayer and his wife, Margaret rechristened her Hedy Lamarr. Her shrewd negotiating led to an MGM contract higher in value than thought possible.
I had read a bit about Hedy Lamarr and so was informed about her scientific knowledge and her inventions. The marginalization of her ideas and inventions by the military and the men who who were in control was less than surprising. The problem area for me was the survivor’s guilt issue which was repeated more than I thought necessary. I also found it interesting that no time or attention was given to her later life and her decline. The ending was a bit of a left turn for me.
This was just a short hair from 4 stars but I am rounding up for the abundant research and the excellent writing. Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy.
Lindas Book Obsession Reviews “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict, Sourcebooks Landmark, January 8, 2019
Marie Benedict, Author of “The Only Woman in the Room” has
Hedy Kiesler is a Jewish actress in Austria. Hedy is described as gorgeous and talented. The time is just before World War Two, and the political feel in Austria is tense. For her safety, her parents are convinced to let her marry a wealthy and political munitions dealer. Her husband is supposed to be a guarantee to protect her from Nazi Germany. He is friends with Benito Mussolini. Hedy and her husband get married in church. Hedy realizes that he is abusive, and as the political climate changes, she tries to escape. There are many things that Hedy hears in the house.
Eventually Hedy arranges to escape, and gets to Hollywood. She becomes Hedy Lamarr.
Hedy Lamarr is one of the most famous and beautiful actresses, but liked to experiment with scientific projects. Some of her ideas were brought to the attention of the United States Navy. They were initially dismissed because Hedy was a woman. It is only years later, that we realize how intelligent and powerful she was.
I loved the way Marie Benedict vividly described the landscape and scenery in Austria, and the Hollywood scene. I would highly recommend this amazing novel for readers who enjoy Historical Fiction. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
Marie Benedict did a fantastic job with Hedy Lamarr. I knew a little about her but, apparently, not enough. What a strong, amazing woman. She escapes an abusive husband, takes on Hollywood, and creates a communications marvel to help take on the Nazis. How did I not know this! I love strong women. Hedy Lamarr just topped the list.
I love Marie Benedict! She always teaches me something. I have read all her books and this is her best. And I have given her other books 5 stars! But this one….oh boy!
Admittedly, I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr before starting to read the novel. And even at the beginning I supposed the protagonist was simply a fictional character. When I became aware of the actual background, the woman’s life felt even more impressive than just the narration which I already liked a lot.
The actress is the narrator and centre of the novel and it does not take too long for the reader to figure out that she isn’t just the nice face and talented actress but a smart woman interested in everyday politics with a sharp and alert mind. She follows her father’s line of thoughts about Mandl’s advances and understands that she isn’t in a position to freely decide. The way she planned her escape shows not only how clever she can plot but also her courage. In America she is first reduced to the beautiful actress and it surely hit her hard when her invention was refused by the navy. If it rally was because she was a woman as the novel suggests or if there were other motives doesn’t really matter – she wasn’t recognised for what she was, but only for what people saw in her. Hopefully narratives of these kind of women help to change the mind of those who still believe that the looks go hand in hand with a simple mind.
This is the story how Hedy Kiesler became the famousHollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr. It is also a little known story of how this intelligent young woman, guilt-ridden for not informing the United States of military secrets she gleaned from the various parties her husband hosted with political and military leaders turns to science as an inventor hoping to develop something that would help the Allies fight the Axis powers, if anyone would believe in her.
Although what I read I enjoyed, I wish the author would have provide more depth. This book was appeared to be more an outline one would provide to publishers in prospect. This novel needed more "meat on its bones."
“A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication.”
Hedy led an interesting life. She is caught up in the lead up to WWII and meets many historical people through her marriage. When she escapes she comes to Hollywood and resumes acting. She is intelligent but, unfortunately, is not recognized for her intelligence. I liked her. She was fascinating and talented on so many levels. She is a role model.
I enjoyed this book. I finished it in one day because I was so caught up in the story. I loved the first person point-of-view. This is a keeper.
There is nothing new under the sun. It was true in the Third Century B.C. when the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote it and it is true in 2018.
And one of the perennial truths is that women are valued for their beauty and preyed upon for sex and must fight for equality in their vocations and
Take Hedy Lamarr, the gorgeous Austrian born star. Marie Benedict's new historical fiction novel The Only Woman in the Room peels back the Hollywood-packaged icon of female physical perfection and offers us a woman who would be in the #MeToo marches and fighting to be taken seriously as an inventor.
I had seen the fascinating American Masters show Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story and was interested to see how Benedict handled Lamarr's exceptional story. Although I have some issues with the writing, I believe that the importance of bringing Lamarr's story to the general public in an accessible venue is more important. The book is a page-turner, quick and easy to read. It hits all the hot-button issues in contemporary society: Antisemitism, abuse and control of women, the power used by Hollywood moguls over starlets, immigration and refugees. Throw in marriage and divorce, adoption, and single moms. And no, the book is not fiction written to address these issues! Hedy Lamarr's life touched on them all.
If all you know about Hedy Lamarr is her films or "It's Hedley!" from Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles, you need to read this book
Benedict's previous books include The Other Einstein and Carnegie's Maid. Learn more about them here.
I received an ARC from bookreporter.com in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
In the audience one night, a gentleman showered her with flowers. He also introduced himself to
They ended up marrying and Mr. Mandl was the owner of the largest munitions company supplying weapons to anyone who needed them. Hitler was advancing, but Austria was trying to stay independent.
Hedy becomes the glitter part of the marriage, the pretty face that Fritz loves to show off. Then things get blatantly abject and Hedy has to make a move to get away.
Hedy Lamarr was gorgeous and a star, but there really was so much more to this woman than that.
This book was written with a lot of research into a past that we didn't know too much about. Kudos for championing this woman and all of her intelligence, which she was never given the credit for.
Interesting historical novel with a political agenda. Too much novelization for my taste, and the stance that the ONLY reason for the rejection of the plans for the torpedo launching device was that she was female is nonsense. Try the additions that neither she
I requested and received a free ebook copy from SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley.
AFTER reading the novel, do read the author’s note at the end. That’s all I’ll say so as to give nothing away.