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Book Review: The Only Woman in the Room

February 19, 2019

If you've been following along so far, then you know I'm attempting to read a book a week this year so part of my New Years Resolution. You can read all about it here! And I am happy to report that I am on week seven and going strong! This week's book took me traveling from Vienna, Austria, all the way to Hollywood California!

 

I was crazy excited to read this week's book, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict! You can read all about why I picked this book, and several other's up during my latest Barnes and Nobles run here! The story follows actress Hedy Lamarr, and she is now one of most interesting women I've ever read about!

 

 

The Only Woman in the Room begins on opening night of Sissy, a play that Hedy Kiesler stars in. On opening night, a mysterious man gives her dozens of roses. She soon learns that he is Fritz Mandl and is the largest arms dealer in Austria. Hedy's family encourages her to spend time with Frtiz, as he position of power could keep Hedy safe in the tumultuous climate of 1930's Europe. Soon, Fritz proposed, and Hedy accepts. 

 

After the wedding, thought, Fritz changes. He becomes possessive and abusive, locking Hedy away from the world. She is expected to be nothing more than a pretty face.

 

It is during her isolation that she learns that Fritz plans to support Hitler by providing weapons and ammunition. Knowing she needs to escape from Fritz, she plans a daring escape from Vienna to London.  There, she meets an MGM agent who takes her to Hollywood, and changes her name to Hedy Lamarr. 

 

Hollywood is good to Hedy. She meets Gene Markey, a sweet composer, who becomes her second husband. Despite the joy she gets from acting, Hedy is disheartened by the news she hears from Europe. She wants to do more to help the Jewish who are being persecuted by Hitler and the Third Reich.

 

When she hears of the bombing of a refugee boat filled with children, she adopts a refugee child, James, with Gene. Despite thinking a child would save their marriage, the two divorce. 

 

During this time, Hedy begins to think of more she can do to aid the war effort. She, along with George Antheil, a friend and pianist, comes up with an idea to create torpedoes that work on an non-jamable radio signal, a revolutionary invention for the time. After getting their invention patented, the pair send it to the Navy, in hopes of turning the tide of the war. After being told that they would not except the invention because it was created by a woman, Hedy decides to sell war bonds in an attempt to use her pretty face to help the war. 

 

I loved this book! I knew, in a general sense, who Hedy Lamarr was. I knew she was considered one of the prettiest women in Hollywood, but I had no idea about all the other things she did; the girl was an inventor! That's amazing!

 

I love that Marie Benedict chose not to focus solely on her acting, or her many failed relationships, but instead chose to focus on Hedy's scientific aspects. Hedy was a powerhouse woman to begin with: leaving her abusive husband, not giving into the sexism of Hollywood, and being a single parent. But adding in her scientific achievements makes her a truly remarkable woman!

 

I give this book an enthusiastic 5 out of 5!

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