My book club’s pick for November was The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. It is based on the very real person, Hedy Lamarr, a Hollywood actress. However, that label would not do justice to what Hedy actual was and did.
The book starts out with Hedy at nineteen and performing in a theatre in Vienna, Austria. It is early 1930s and the government in Austria is in upheaval and there are threats from Germany. But to young Hedy, life is fine.
She is the only child and doted on by her father. She shares that he spent many afternoons humoring her and answering all the questions she ever had. He gave her knowledge and attention that most young women of the time did not receive from their fathers and a thirst for learning/knowledge.
Young Hedy, is courted by a very important and rich man in Austria, Friedrich Mandl, who owns many factories that produce war weapons. Her father, who has never before said a word about her dating life, informs Hedy, that it is important for her to date him, even though he is quite older than she. Her father feels that to make Mr. Mandl mad, would be bad for their family.
Hedy’s family is Jewish, but only so much as though her parents were raised Jewish. They are not religious. However, in the early 1930s in Austria/Germany that did not matter to those intent on hating Jewish people.
Hedy ends up marrying Mandl after a whirlwind courtship and spends time in his lavish houses and a CASTLE! However, he doesn’t treat her well and she realizes that even though she gave up her acting career, she’s still playing a part.
She manages to escape from Mandl and make it to Hollywood where she becomes a movie star. However, she feels immense guilt for escaping and not doing more to help fellow Jews. One line that stood out to me was whether she wondered if she was over estimating her importance of not saying anything of her knowledge of Hitler’s plans. I felt with the knowledge she knew, she was over thinking her importance. As another part of the book shares, the fact that she is a woman, kept many men from doubting her. I highly doubt any of them would have done anything with what she could have told them, strictly becasuse she was a woman.
I am leaving out a lot of details mainly because YOU SHOULD read this book. It reads fast and is fascinating. I also will leave you with the tidbit, that we can thank Hedy Lamarr for Bluetooth technology.
Marie Benedict also has historical fiction books based upon Carnegie’s maid and Einstein’s wife. I am planning on checking out the book about Carnegie’s maid soon!
What is the last book you gave 5 stars? What historical person have you read about fiction or non-fiction that you learned information and enjoyed the book?