The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict, is a historical fiction novel documenting the life of Hedwig Kiesler, better known as Hedy Lamarr. Though she is more commonly known for her role as an actress in the 1930’s and 1940’s, her life prior to her time in Hollywood, as well as her scientific discoveries, are much less recognized. As The Only Woman in the Room unfolds, readers find that her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis, if anyone would listen to her.
Hedy’s story is quite remarkable, and is one that is not only interesting but inspiring. In her life as the wife of an illustrious arms dealer, she secretly witnessed highly confidential military talks imperative to the state of Austria. After realizing that her marriage may not offer the safety she had hoped for, she knows she must do all she can to escape. Hedy realizes the only escape from her violent and abusive past is to become an actress in Hollywood. Once in the United States she becomes one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Yet fame did nothing to diminish the guilt she felt for knowing inside information about the war and leaving her country to evade what she knew was inevitable. Hedy began to create a scientific creation that would help aid in the war efforts against the very forces she encountered in Austria. Benedict easily molds a beautiful account of Hedy’s life. From her youth as a nineteen year old theater actress who enters into a questionable marriage, to her adult years as an actress in Hollywood engaging in scientific studies that propel her into a search for a new life of independence, her life is far from simple. Benedict’s style of writing allows a dignified look into the delicate balance between Hedy’s past in Austria and her life in Hollywood which created an obvious internal conflict within Hedy. It is simply an empowering story!
Benedict easily depicts the life of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It gives insight into a unique, beautiful, and complex woman, recalling her darkest secrets that lead to her life as a Hollywood starlet and scientist. This book will be enjoyed by fans of Melanie Benjamin and Adrianna Trigiani as it is similar to The Aviator’s Wife and All of the Stars in the Heavens, because it details the life of someone well known in general but had a life far beyond her public reputation. Yet it is also similar to The Nightingale and Alice Network in the sense that it recalls WWII history and sheds light on events that aren’t as well known of the war. This was the perfect book for me personally because it includes old Hollywood and historical fiction, specifically focused on World War II, which are two of my favorite topics to read about. I read the entire book in three sittings and was entranced every time. I couldn't put it down! Benedict elegantly and gracefully tells Hedy’s story, along with the historical references of her era. As Benedict mentions in the Afterword, it is important for us to begin to view historical women through a broader lens and rewrite them back into the narrative. Hedy's story in itself is astonishing, and mixed with Benedict's writing style The Only Woman in the Room makes for the perfect read!
Book: The Only Woman in the Room
Author: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 8, 2019)
Publisher: Pegasus, May 1, 2012
Hard Cover: 272 pages
Purchasing information: Amazon $18.19