Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on January 8, 2019
Genres: Adult, Historical
She was beautiful. She was a genius. Could the world handle both? A powerful, illuminating novel about Hedy Lamarr.
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, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.
The Only Woman in the Room was a book club read and one I’m glad was suggested. I didn’t know much about Hedy Lamarr other than she was an actress. I applaud MBenedict for highlighting all that Lamarr accomplished beyond being a pretty face. While the story was interesting, the prose felt stilted much of the time and there were other quirks in MBenedict’s writing that I found tedious. Those things took away from an otherwise enjoyable read yet I’m still happy to have read it.
- Hedy was a rather fascinating woman. She was a stage actress in Vienna and despite the fact she lived in a Jewish neighborhood, she didn’t realize she was Jewish. A few years prior to the start of WWII, Friedrich Mandl (AKA The Merchant of Death) began courting her. It was a relationship that would protect her and he parents should war come. She used her subsequent marriage for all it was worth eventually making her way to America.
- Even though Hedy grew up during a time when young ladies went to finishing schools, she was always more interested in math and science. Her father treated her an an equal and thus discussed with Hedy topics that would have been considered unsuitable or inappropriate for young women. This, along with her thirst for learning, enabled her foray into creating technological advances for the military as well as working as a spy of sorts. Married to Mandl, they hosted many players in WWII. As she was a woman and a beautiful one at that, men would speak freely in front of her.
- The military rejected her advanced sonar device seeing as it was created by a woman. (!) However, cell phones are just one of the many devices we owe to Hedy Lamarr.
- Despite being famous around the world as well as brilliant, Hedy suffered several failed marriages. She seemed to always be looking for validation, love, and respect. MBenedict did well at showing Hedy’s many attempts to gain these things. I don’t believe she ever garnered what she wanted most in life.