Book review by Dinh.
I do so love reading about women who have made an impact in the world! Their contributions to the world are not always well known and it’s refreshing to discover historical women and see them in a different perspective.
A few years back I read Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini which was an interesting read on the unrecognized accomplishments of Ada Byron King, who is considered to be the first computer programmer.
I was drawn to The Only Woman In The Room by Marie Benedict because Hedy Lamarr was a famous movie star and her private life as an inventor was over-shadowed by her Hollywood fame and beauty.
I was intrigue to find out more about Hedy, the woman with beauty and brains!
This historical fiction is based on the real life of Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler who later became Hedy Lamarr, the famous silver screen movie star.
The story started in May 1933 with Hedy at the age of nineteen at curtain call, a pivotal moment that changed the direction of her life. This was the moment she sees her future husband, arms dealer Friedrich “Fritz” Mandl.
It was a dangerous time for Hedy and her family who are Austrian Jews at a time when Hitler just became Chancellor of Germany (January 1933) and looking to reunite Austria and Germany and anti-Semitism was on the rise.
Hedy marries Mandl for the protection and security he can offer her and her family but she soon discovers that he is violent and controlling.
Hedy manages to escape from Mandl and goes to America. There, Hedy makes movies and in her spare time, researches and invents.
The author does a great job in making the reading light. It was not overladen with heavy descriptions.
I liked that the story moved quite quickly and the pace and tone was consistent throughout.
The only negative comment I have about the book is that the author did not stress how smart Hedy was. I felt that a few more lines on her intelligence would have gone a long way to help the story out. I was shocked to find out that Hedy was able to invent a frequency- hopping device!
The only clues that hinted Hedy’s intelligence came from her discussions with her father when she was younger, and that she read a book on radio frequencies when she kept at the castle. I would have liked her gifted mind emphasized more!
Hedy’s life was intriguing and Benedict does a good job in revealing some of the aspects of her life that was puzzling. Hedy’s marriage to Mandl was better understood with the sequence of events that played out after their initial meeting.
I was disappointed that Hedy’s character did not show more depth. The book was written in the first person point of view so I assumed I would have a rapport with her but it didn’t pan out that way.
The early part of the Hedy’s life with her marriage was detailed enough but I didn’t get enough of her life as an inventor. This is an example where a longer book would have made it better!
I enjoyed the ending although it just stops.
I did like that the Author’s Note at the end of the book paid homage to Hedy with the impact and contributions she has made to the world in her work on spread spectrum technology.
My Final Thoughts
I enjoyed The Only Woman In The Room by Marie Benedict. It was an interesting historical fiction that revealed the brilliant mind behind the beautiful face of Hedy Lamarr.
Whilst there were flaws in the book, it did not stop me from enjoying it.
Belong to a book club? Check out The Only Woman In The Room book club discussion questions!