The Only Woman in the Room

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

May 17, 1933, Vienna, Austria, Hedwig Kiesler had just given an extraordinary performance which was appreciated by all but especially by Austria’s richest man, the Industrialist, Friedrich Mandl. Austria is in a very precarious position and the fear of invasion by Hitler is very real. Hedy and her family reside in Dobling, a Jewish neighborhood, which would undoubtedly be targeted if and when an invasion takes place. Hedy’s father encouraged her to entertain Mandy’s affection in the hope that it will keep Hedy and her parents safe. Mandl dictated everything including which dress she will wear to her wedding, the venue and all the wedding plans, their dinner party menus, their life. Unfortunately marriage to an insanely jealous, powerful, politically connected man does not make for a happy fairy tale.

Marie Benedict does an admirable job of describing the circumstances which forced Hedy Kiesler Mandl to plot, flee and recreate herself to survive. The trip to the United States from London aboard the SS Normandie and her subsequent meeting with Louis B Mayer and his wife, Margaret rechristened her Hedy Lamarr. Her shrewd negotiating led to an MGM contract higher in value than thought possible. 

I had read a bit about Hedy Lamarr and so was informed about her scientific knowledge and her inventions. The marginalization of her ideas and inventions by the military and the men who who were in control was less than surprising. The problem area for me was the survivor’s guilt issue which was repeated more than I thought necessary. I also found it interesting that no time or attention was given to her later life and her decline. The ending was a bit of a left turn for me.

This was just a short hair from 4 stars but I am rounding up for the abundant research and the excellent writing. Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy.
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For all my historical fiction lovers and lovers of one of my favorites from last year, Carnegie’s Maid, comes Marie Benedict’s new book, The Only Woman in the Room. This fictional story follows the life of the ever so fascinating Hedy Lamar through the early days of the rise of Nazis to her days in Hollywood. Hedy Lamar was truly a woman way ahead of her time and doesn’t get enough credit for her brilliance, until now. Benedict did yet another fabulous job creating a story that fit into some of Hedy’s greatest accomplishments and most disappointing failures. Hedy was brought to life with all her spunk and intellect, but was humanized in the most relatable way with naivety and ignorance. The Austrian dinner parties of the late 30’s and all of the familiar names in attendance are brought to life beautifully and were some of the highlights of this story. I was engrossed in this book in it’s entirety and can’t recommend it enough to any lover of historical fiction or books with intelligent female protagonists.
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The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

There are many books out now about WWII, but don’t stop reading them before you finish The Only Woman in the Room.  Not just a pretty face, this biographical/historical novel of actress Hedy Kiesler will totally “wow” you! 

As a former famous actress in Austria, Hedy had a front row seat to many dinners with her wealthy husband Frederick (Fritz) Mandl and his guests, who included European leaders who eventually became top players in the Second World War. 

Hedy, the gorgeous young hostess, listened well and took notes, mental and written, on the many table discussions in their castle. Ready to use this information to help the Allies, the opportunity didn’t arise for many years to come, and in an unexpected way. 

Follow Hedy out of Austria to Los Angeles where stardom awaits this beautiful woman. Her chance friendship with composer/musician George Antheil creates a scientific discovery that affects every one of our lives today. Read on and do not skip the Author’s Note at the end of this book to find out how. 

Hedy, the only woman in the room more than once in her life, accomplished much, and opened the door for acceptance of women’s contributions to mankind, proving that there is often more to beauty than meets the eye.
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Hedy Lamarr was more than a beautiful actress- she was in intelligent and innovative scientist.  If you aren't familiar with her story, this is a great place to start.  Married too young to a creep who helped the Nazis, she leaves her home (and her family) and flees to London, where she gets a movie contract that eventually brings her to the US.  Determined to help the Allies beat the Nazis, she begins work on a radio system.  Her struggles- how she was treated- are outlined but here's the thing- her work is still used today,  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This isn't a full biography of Lamar but it should bring her contributions into wider focus.  For fans of historical fiction and those who want to learn more about an American heroine.
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Never underestimate the power of an intelligent woman.  This is an informative, entertaining historical novel about Hedy Lamarr.  She was a strong multi-talented woman who persevered to get what she wanted and what she was worth.  Her life was fascinating, making for a riveting read.  In addition to a screen star, she was a scientist who developed a weapons system for the navy which they refused to use because it was created by a woman. Fortunately, years later she did get her due and her invention was used in the development of Bluetooth and Wi-fi.
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I really enjoyed this book. It makes you think about how everyone felt during the world war 2. It felt as if I was in the story. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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The Only Woman in the Room is an excellent fictionalized version of the story of Hedy Lamarr. The beauty was much more than Hollywood royalty and a scientific genius. Married to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, Hedy had access to eyes and loose lips of the Third Reich's plans. Escaping from her husband, she's lands in Hollywood. 

More than the secret of her Jewish heritage, Hedy's biggest secret is that she's a brilliant scientist and has the designs/an idea on how to revolutionize modern idea that we use today.

Marie Benedict has done a fabulous job on recreating Lamarr's life and making sure to credit her with the ideas and inventions that many starry eyed fans may forget.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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The Only Woman in the Room tells the story of the famous actress Heddy Lamar. This is a fascinating story of a remarkable woman.  This book begs to be read and shared.  Marie Benedict allows us to see this woman as so much more than a beautiful face,
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Thank you Net Galley for an advanced copy of this enjoyable book.  All I’ve ever known about Hedy Lamarr is that she was a beautiful and glamorous actress, the ultimate sex symbol. I had no idea that she was a scientist and inventor!  The story of her life in Austria, her marriage to Fritz Mandl, a weapons and ammunition manufacturer who she basically flees from when it’s evident that he is negotiating with Hitler, and her eventual success in acting and her invention of a torpedo system  that would be accurate and not be subject to jamming by the Nazis, totally intrigued me.  I don’t think I can ever look at a cell phone again and not think of Hedwig Kiesler a brilliant woman!
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The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a must-read for anyone who questions the ease in which a smart, beautiful, talented and courageous woman can be marginalized many times throughout her life.  

Hedy Lamarr’s life provides a rich treasury for Benedict’s talent and skill.  Lamarr was born in pre-World War II Austria.  Although she is alleged to have later converted to Catholicism, she and her family were Jewish and therefore, at risk.  She was an acclaimed actress at eighteen, and encouraged to marry an older, wealthy, connected industrialist as a means of providing protection for her family.  The quintessential trophy wife, she was imprisoned in luxurious homes, not permitted to make even the most trivial decisions.  Aside from serving as décor, she served her husband as a listening device at social events, meeting Mussolini and possibly, Hitler.  In this role, she learned much about military technology.  

Eventually, she escaped and landed in Hollywood where she was forced to circumvent the advances of producers in order to progress as a movie star.  It appears that she was celebrated far more for her beauty than her acting talent.  Additionally, she hid both her Jewish heritage and her scientific skills from all but a few trusted friends.  Driven by her concerns about the war and a desire to help her adopted country succeed in fighting Germany, she and a partner developed a signal frequency hopping technology that received a patent but was rejected by the Navy on frivolous grounds.  This technology, for which Lamarr was recognized only recently, later formed the basis for the technology all of us use in cell phones and Bluetooth.  

This story is flawed in that Hedy never comes to life as a multi-dimensional person.  Her love for her family, children and friends is described but always seems flat.  Similarly, her outrage in her perpetual marginalization is acknowledged, but feels circumscribed.  I suspect that Hedy kept much hidden away, including her emotional life which must have been a challenge for the author.  Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark Publishers for the opportunity to read an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Only Woman in the Room was a well written glimpse into the life of Hedy Lamarr. From her marriage to an Austrian arms dealer before World War Two to her career as an American movie star, she fought to become more than just a pretty face. Marie Benedict’s research into her life shines through! A must for historical fiction fans!
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The marginalization of women's contributions to science and inventions back in the 1930s and 40s was awful; that it still exists today in unthinkable, but it does.  What does that have to do with this book?  Well, everything!  Hedy Lamarr, an actress in the 1930s and 40s, was known for her beauty.  'The Only Woman in the Room'  is the story about how a beautiful woman used her appearance to help her achieve what she felt was important in life.  She was born a Jew in Austria and experienced Hitler's rise to power first hand.  When a book makes you research parts of history because the story brings it alive for you, well, that's a great book!  I had heard the name Hedy Lamarr before but knew nothing about her life.  I really enjoyed this story of a lonely girl who becomes an actress, the wife of an ammunitions dealer, an escape artist, once again an actress, a mother, and an inventor.
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I'm very fascinated with Hedy Lamarr's life story, so I was excited to receive this book from Net Galley. I have not read either of the author's other two books (although they both sound interesting as well).

I thought this book was very well-written and intriguing. While it was clearly well-researched, it is a novel, a fictionalized version of Hedy's early life. It definitely makes me want to learn even more about her. I hope this book will inspire readers who were unaware of who she was or who may not have known about her accomplishments beyond her acting career. 

I enjoyed reading this book and devoured it pretty quickly. It's a great read.

Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you to Sourcebooks for the free review copy. All opinions are my own.

I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr before reading this book, and she seemed to live quite an interesting life. I love how Benedict takes women from history and gives us another side to their story. She does a wonderful job of giving complexity to people that may not be known as anything other than their role - in Hedy's case, that would be an actress.

I really liked how instead of focusing on her whole movie career, Benedict instead chose to combine her early life and used that buildup to show what was some of her most important work that was not seen because everything was overshadowed by her acting. I thought part 1 of the book was so interesting. Hedy was in a quite interesting situation. The development here was spectacular. I had to keep turning pages to see how it would end.

I also enjoyed the focus of part two. While Hollywood seemed like it was going to be the main focus, I'm glad it took a different director than what I was expecting.
This is a great historical fiction book to start the year off with, and I highly recommend it.
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The Only Woman in the Room is an extraordinary book! Hedy Lamarr was known for her acting and incredible beauty, but few knew of her scientific mind. Marie Benedict has fleshed out Miss Lamarr's story of not only  escaping from Austria and World War II,  but also from an abusive husband who was known as the "Merchant of Death".  Lamarr's fans knew only of her war efforts to sell bonds, not of her unjammable frequency-hopping invention. An invention that would improve communication to torpedoes, and that continues to be a part of our everyday lives. This is a thoroughly researched, superbly written, and absolutely fascinating book. Historical fiction at its finest. Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy.
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I was really excited to read this book as the description entailed science, secrets, love and scandal. All of my favorites. As I read the book though, I was disappointed that the storyline’s of the characters didn’t seem to get too deep. I was really excited to read more about a woman that was trying to create a weapon to use against Hitler, but I felt like it was such a small part of the book, it lacked the spark I was looking for.
I did enjoy reading the parts of the book that were about the relationships and Hollywood, those stories were creatively explained. 
All in all, I thought it was an interesting storyline, I learned a lot about the Nazi’s, Hitler and secret relationships, that I didn’t know about and I was able to read it all the way through. 
I’m giving it 2 out of 5 stars because the ending was very disappointing and I really didn’t even know what to think when I put it down. Other than, that was a bummer ending.
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This was a fascinating book!!  The story itself was compelling, made even more so by the fact it was based on a true story.  The author brings to life the characters and the narrative moves along at a brisk pace.

Hedy Lamarr was more than a pretty face.  In a time when women were rarely taken seriously, she was smart enough to use her beauty to achieve her goals and used her intelligence to accomplish much more than she was credited.  

The book is  packed with information but easy to read and very entertaining.  I whizzed through it in one afternoon.
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I really enjoyed Marie benedict’s two previous books CARNEGIE’S MAID and THE OTHER EINSTEIN so was looking forward to her take on Hedy Lamarr. I was NOT disappointed as she delivered the compelling story of Hedy Lamarr.  Benedict brought to life the little known history of one of the world’s most beautiful women and, more importantly, highly intelligent women. 

Hedwig Kiestler was born in Austria to a Jewish mother and father. While performing the role of Empress Sisi, she came to the attention of the munitions magnate Fritz Mandl. After a short courtship, his proposal of marriage was seen as a way to protect Hedy from the growing anti-Semitism of the time.

Mandl spoke openly to Hedy about the armaments and munitions he sold. Always the curious one, Hedy read as much as she could about the arms her husband sold and listened in on conversations he held with business partners. The men never imagined that this beautiful woman had any interest in or understood their conversations.   

Mandl became more and more controlling and Hedy knew she had to escape his powerful clutches. She flees to England and then to Hollywood where Jewish actors and actresses were fleeing to as they could not perform in Europe. She quickly becomes one of the highest paid performers and is dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world. But over her hangs a cloud of guilt.

Knowing what she did, could she have prevented some of the senseless deaths of European Jews? She now draws on her scientific knowledge to develop equipment to shorten the war thus saving lives. But her real challenge is getting someone to listen to her. 

This is a commanding novel based on the true story of actress Hedy Lamarr whose patented idea laid the foundation for secure communications and cellphone technology. 

The story was so riveting I flew through the pages losing all track of time. This is a story not to be forgotten.
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This was a fabulous read to end 2018. It had much to admire and learn. Set first in Vienna in a well established Jewish family, we have a young Heidi an accomplished debutante in the field of drama with a doting father and an antagonistic mother. 

Very soon she catches the eye of a business magnate Fritz Mandl, whose arms dealings and factories have made him a millionaire. He moves with the uppermost sections of society and when his eye falls on Heidi, there is no way out for her. Her marriage takes place and Fritz begins to control every aspect of her life. Who she sees to where she goes, not given any room for anything to do with the many houses he owns, she is merely an ornament to adorn his world. Heidi is a clever woman and Fritz begins to see what an asset she is to his business with her acute business sense and awareness of people.

However when things turn ugly in the Mandl household, and when she is a virtual prisoner in her own home, Heidi plans her escape. Successfully entering the Hollywood scene her new life emerges. Not just a second marriage and the adoption of a baby boy, but  her real scientific talent blossoms with the manufacture of a system which will prevent ships being torpedoed. Turned down by the American Navy for the flimsiest and most chauvinistic of reasons, which made me so angry, the prototype of what Hedy Lamarr put together with her partner is followed by the navy today. Even our cell phones use a system which was manufactured or rather put together by her.

No one knows of this part of the glam girls history. That she was responsible for raising 2.5 million pounds in one dance hall performance is one of the highlights of her life. What she actually did is not known - her scientific mind and bent, her obviously above average intelligence was ignored by the powers that be. So sad.

Despite this woman being born in modern times, she did not get a fair chance to shine. This part made me feel very unhappy at the way she was treated. People could not visualize other than what her physical appearance projected, which was glamour and beauty.
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This book was about the actress/scientist Hedy Lamarr.  It starts with her playing Bavarian Empress Elizabeth at the the theater where "The Merchant of Death", arms dealer Friedrich Mandl discovered her and decided she must be his.  They married after dating only a few weeks, but she quickly discovered there was another side to him..... a very ugly one.  The book takes us through the marriage, the ultimate divorce, and the beginning of her Hollywood film career.  It also briefly touched on the torpedo system that she helped invent, which the U.S. Military declined to use, mainly because a woman designed it.
I really enjoyed the book up until the end.  The ending felt rushed, and I wish more time had been allocated towards her role as a scientist.  Otherwise, this was a great work of historical fiction......very illuminating and exciting to read.
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