The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

The Only Woman in the Room


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. 

My take: 3 looks

I had heard about the scientific accomplishments of Hedy Lamarr a few years ago, so when I saw this book on the “New Releases” shelf of my local library, I grabbed it. A fan of historical fiction, I try to keep in mind the nuances and literary license that an author must take to round out the story, or make it compelling to the reader. In this novel, I was interested in the relationship Hedy had with her mother, which was a bit contentious, formal, and cold. Her father was exactly the opposite. As an only child, and very close to my mother, this was a bit heart-wrenching for me. I enjoyed this aspect of the storytelling.

The majority of the novel was taken with her first, and very short, marriage to a wealthy munitions manufacturer during the Nazi invasion of western Europe. Even though it was crucial in setting the stage for the basis of her knowledge of the inner workings of the war, as well as the vulnerabilities of the enemy, I felt that there was a bit too much time devoted to this section, at the expense of the rest. In hindsight, I would have preferred more time devoted to the development process of fluctuating frequency, the experience of trying to sell the idea to the government, and the dichotomy of Lamarr’s beauty and brilliance in the 1940s and 50s Hollywood.

All-in-all, this was an entertaining book, gave a nice foundation of the background on Lamarr, and sets up the reader to be hungry for more research and information on this amazing woman.  


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