The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
Sourcebook Landmark, 2019. Hardcover, 256 pages.
Opening in Vienna, readers are greated to actress Hedy Kiesler performing on stage. However, soon readers are taken into the personal live of the actress later knows to the world as Hedy Lamarr. It’s an era of rising anti-semitism and Hedy was born into a Jewish family. When an Austrian arms manufacturer and dealer takes an interest in her, her father convinced her to accept Fritz Mendel’s proposal to safeguard herself in the new political climate. As Mendel’s wife, Hedy is forced from the stage and is now present at many dinner parties where she overhears the Third Reich’s plans. She also finds her world slowing shrinking as her husband is very controlling.
Finally Hedy managed to escape Fritz and makes her way to Hollywood, recritianed and Hedy Lamarr. While showing the world her skill as an actress, Hedy is hiding her true self. She has not disclosed her heritage and she is trying to find ways to help the Allies win the war, often taking the knowledge she learned at Fritz’s dinner table and putting it to use. When she teams up with a composer to create a spectrum hopping frequency, she thinks she may have created a new weapon to win the war? How did the military respond? How did their response affect Hedy?
Benedict wrote this novel from Hedy’s perspective which helps drive the points made in this novel home. Readers are not just learning about aspects of Hedy’s life not related to her movies, but learning how she must have felt. They will gain her viewpoints as to what was going on in the world at the time. In terms of pacing, this novel was a pretty quick read and it did not sidetrack from the story being told. This is the story of Hedy the thinker and inventor, not the actress, who was lost for decades due to the lack of recognition of her as an inventor. Thus it is important to note, if you did not already know, Hedys’ invention is now one society could not due without–it is the basis for all wireless communication, from cell phones (an other cordless devices) to wi-fi enabled devices. So the world does need to read more about this remarkable woman who was only known for acting in her era, but made much larger contributions elsewhere in the world.
Were you surprised to know about Lamarr’s background? Do you have any other suggested readings?
This review is based on a copy I purchased. The novel was release in January.