Cover Image: The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room

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Member Reviews

I knew of Hedy Lamarr’s inventiveness and particularly her patent of what became spread spectrum technology, so I was extremely keen to read about her extraordinary life. At the start I forgot I was reading about a real person, but when I recalled who she was, I could not but be amazed. I would heartily recommend people to read and learn about this outstanding, in every way, person.
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I was very ready to love this book. What is not to love about a life of a beautiful woman (and Hedy Lamarr was all-natural bombshell and a true beauty by any standard), who is also a brilliant, self-taught inventor? 
Yet this book has disappointed me as is both shallow and uneven in my opinion. It concentrates only into certain parts of Hedy´s life (more than a half book is about her life as a young wife to a powerful Austrian weaponry businessman) and how is she seen "only" as a woman (even the title "The Only Woman in the room" indicates that she is "only" a woman, a beautiful face with no brains or personality). Yet - I think that the true reality is much more colourful and complicated than the simplistic feminist take (nothing against the true feminism!). Also - is Hedy´s life worth no more than the simple statement about how women were only toys and unworthy creatures for men, which had brought many unhappiness unto earth? Well, yes, the abovementioned viewpoint is (partly) true - but there is much more into the picture, as the truth is simply less simple. 
I have read somewhere that "your pain is your business brand" - and me for myself would like to know more about this woman from that point - her escapist pain, her brilliant intelligence (to become such a self-taught scientist that her inventions are in use as a part of the most modern technology? Without any education in the field? She must have been brilliant). How about her art? Is her art less important? How about her father complex, many marriages, children and later life?
Yet we spend more time on the cruelty of her first husband, meaningless sexual scenes, dresses and trying to end every chapter with a punchline (pin very much intended, as the final sentences feel extra fake to me).
This is not a biography, it is a novel. And it is not a good novel, as the storytelling concentrates more on a statement that on telling the story in its wholeness. 
The life of Hedy Lamarr deserves a more comprehensive, deeper and more detailed analysis - and perhaps more human understanding of Hedy as a whole, not just a narrow view limited by a certain viewpoint.
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This book features the life of actress Hedy Lamarr. The story started off at a good pace. Not as good as Carnegie's Maid but still a worthwhile read. I am not a big fan of WWII novels but the historical aspects were fascinating.
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The Only Woman in the Room was...ok.

I was excited to read this because I love reading about women in science or technology. This book seemed like it would hit the mark for me but it didn't. The large majority of the book was about her marriage to Friedrich "Fritz" Mandl and her film career. While that was interesting, it wasn't what I expected and I wouldn't have read the book if I knew that would be the focus of the story. I wanted more.

The tagline for the book says, "She was beautiful. She was a genius. Could the world handle both?" but there is overwhelming emphasis on her beauty while her intelligence seems minimized. Benedict provides such a cursory overview of Hedy Lamarr's incredible and accomplished early life and makes it seem so vacuous which is shocking considering the material she had to work with here. If the intention was to bring Hedy Lamarr to life (and it clearly was), this book failed. She felt so flat and simply lackluster.

Her contributions to science and technology were rushed through in the last 15% or so of the book. The pacing was off throughout most of the book with major events like deciding to adopt James, custody of James, and pitching the torpedo system invention barely taking more than a few sentences. It was painfully obvious that Benedict herself didn't understand the torpedo system invention well enough to thoughtfully share or explain it to readers. Instead, it is discussed through descriptions of piles of books in Hedy's home, a confrontation with her co-inventor's wife, and a lot of waiting for responses. 

Overall, I felt like I learned more about Hedy Lamarr from her Wikipedia entry. This book could have been great and if you want a book about Hedy Lamarr's early life with a focus on film you'll probably love it. If you want insight into Hedy Lamarr the inventor and scientist, you'll be disappointed.
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I wanted to love this one because Hedy Lamarr has had such a fascinating life, but I could not get into the writing of Only Woman in the Room. It felt very slow to me. I tried a few times to read it but decided to DNF at 23%
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Disappointingly simplistic. 

I had high hopes for this book because I find Hedy Lamarr to be a fascinating person. Unfortunately, this book focused on all of the wrong aspects of her life and largely ignored the things that made the greatest contribution to her enthralling legacy. 

To write fiction about Lamarr and focus primarily on her victimization by the men in her life feels like a disservice to her incredible accomplishments. I understand that this is women’s fiction and the target audience is deeply interested in relationship-driven content, but the glossing over of Lamarr’s scientific accomplishments in order to better focus on her appearance and  mistreatment by men feels like putting Hedy in the same box those men wanted to hide her in. 

Obviously those are important components of her story and need to be included, but to focus on them such as to imply that those were the defining moments of her life is disrespectful to the subject. 

That misprioritization of content combined with the extremely simplistic writing made this one a big disappointment for me.
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Marie Benedict has become one of my favorite authors for historical fiction. Her books read like nonfiction; she takes notable, but often overlooked, women from history and sheds light on their lives and accomplishments. 

This story begins in the early days of Adolf Hitler's regime. We are introduced to the talented and Heidi Kiesler (aka Hedi Lamarr) when she was a young and little-known actress in Austria. Performing onstage, she catches the eye of wealthy Friedrich Mandl, the renowned ‘Merchant of Death’ and Austria’s richest man. He charms her and her parents with his wealth and influence, and she marries him. However, it soon becomes apparent that he wishes to tightly control every aspect of her life and appearance. She eventually escapes from him, and in finding her freedom she goes on to not only become a famous actress but to make significant contributions in the world of science. 

This is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in history, and particularly the women in history whose accomplishments have too-often taken a backseat to the accomplishments of men.
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A straight up fictional biography of Hedy Lamarr. The author brings nothing special to the story of this most interesting woman. Marred to the largest arms dealer to the Germans and eventually Hitler, Lamarr escapes her luxe imprisonment and makes her way to Hollywood. Her career is given short shrift, and the book ends during WW II, There's not much to recommend it. If you are a Hedy Lamarr fan, you already know what's in this book.
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I received an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley. This book had me from the very beginning. I love that it kept me engaged the entire time. I couldn't wait to see how it ended. I would highly recommend to all my fellow readers. Thank you for the chance to review this book!
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What a stunning book! The Only Woman in the Room is truly a masterpiece, Hedy Lamarr a fascinating enigma brought to life by Marie Benedict. I couldn’t put this book down!
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I really wanted to like this book but couldn't seem to get into it.  Hedy Lamarr led a fascinating life but it wasn't told well in this book.  The writing was slow and I felt the author didn't do her story credit.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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In a world where women are mere fixtures in the lives of men, Hedy Lamarr dreams of something more. After fleeing from her abusive Nazi husband, Hedy remakes herself and becomes a movie legend. But she longs for something else, and she turns to science. Finding her calling to help bring down the Nazi's she invents, but is not listened to. 

I enjoyed this book.
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Before I found this book, all I knew of Hedy Lamarr was that she was an amazing beauty, a Hollywood star, and had numerous marriages.  When I saw the book description mentioned she was a scientist as well, I knew I wanted to read this.  I also knew that the author, Marie Benedict, had a reputation for telling stories that bring to light unrecognized contributions made by women.  Double winner for me.
A few days after the book was launched, I was able to attend a lecture given by the author.  Fortunately or unfortunately, Ms. Benedict revealed a great deal of the story in her talk.  Fortunately, because it inspired me to really get into the book.  Unfortunately, because it left me with the impression of so much more content than it provided.  I would like to have heard more about her life with her first marriage, and more also about the entire process of the invention.  I don’t often wish an author to have added more pages to their work, but in this case, I would have been happy to see some more.

The expectation that there would be more is, of course, entirely my doing.  The author did a great job telling the story, and I can’t help but wonder what might have been had the invention been adopted by the US military when it was put before them.   

I would certainly read more of the author’s work.   I have Carnegie’s Maid already on my TBR pile.  

Thanks to NetGallery, the publisher and author for a complimentary copy of this book.
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This was such an amazing book and far exceeded my expectations! Hedy Lamarr certainly led a fascinating life full of intrigue, romance, violence, intelligence, and much more. What an amazing woman to have escaped an abusive situation and then to have jump started her career in Hollywood, where she not only became a household name, but she was also an self-taught inventor. From what I know, the last few years of her life were rather sad and that is too bad because she seemed to be an extraordinary woman and this book retold her story beautifully.

Thank you to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for this eARC!
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When Hedy Kiesler began dating Fritz Mandl, the wealthiest pre-WW2 Austrian , she hoped that marriage would protect her family from the growing anti-Semitic sentiment growing in Austria. Fritz Mandl, although Jewish like Hedy, was valued by the Germans as a munitions manufacturer therefore was designated an honorary Aryan. However, when it becomes increasingly clear that Fritz could not shelter her family, Hedy makes plans to escape her controlling husband. 

This is the story how Hedy Kiesler became the famousHollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr. It is also a little known story of how this intelligent young woman, guilt-ridden for not informing the United States of military secrets she gleaned from the various parties her husband hosted with political and military leaders turns to science as an inventor hoping to develop something that would help the Allies fight the Axis powers, if anyone would believe in her.

Although what I read I enjoyed, I wish the author would have provide more depth. This book was appeared to be more an outline one would provide to publishers in prospect. This novel needed more "meat on its bones."
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This is a well written and researched fictionalized historical narrative  of the life of Hedy Lamarr. Born Hedwig Keisler, she was a young glamorous Jewish 19 year old actress starring in a theater production in Vienna when she met Friedrich Mandl, a powerful munitions dealer known as the ‘Merchant of Death’. Mandl  is obsessed with Hedy and pursues her fanatically. Her parents pressure her into a marriage with Mandl, believing the union will offer them protection in the rising anti semitic, progressively pro Nazi climate in Austria. Early on in their marriage Mandl realizes Hedy is far from being a beautiful woman with a vacuous mind. She is  quite intelligent and is useful in his business transactions. Hedy becomes  privy to Mandls’ shady business dealings, often with important political figures of the time such as Mussolini and Hitler. Mandl is also a violent, controlling and abusive husband. Hedy eventually escapes the marriage and emigrated to Hollywood. The book glosses over her  successful Hollywood career, choosing to concentrate on her lesser known  important contributions in the field of wireless communications. Hedy is determined to make a positive contribution towards the Allies winning WW ll. I found it to be truly inspiring and eye opening  account into the behind the scenes story of her life.
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(Review Not on Blog)

I love old Hollywood so have been aware of Hedy Lamarr for a long time, but didn't know she was such a fascinating woman. Just before I read this novel, I watched a documentary on Lamarr specifically touching on her scientific background. I was so excited to see there was going to be a fictionalized biography coming out by an author that blew me away with The Other Einstein. However, I found the novel so slow that I put it down a lot. With a "character" as exciting as Lamarr I think I had too high of expectations. It was an okay novel, that I was able to finish, but at times I did think about abandoning it. I didn't feel connected so I wasn't that curious on what happens next. This did get me motivated to read a biography and a memoir (if there is one) to find out more on Hedy Lamarr.

***I received an eARC from NETGALLEY***
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The Only Woman in the Room is a thought-provoking look into the life of scientist and actress Hedy Lamarr neé Kiesler.

I purposely called her a scientist before an actress (which is what she is more well-known for) as she was remarkably insightful and intelligent. She also dedicated significant effort to creating a system to help prevent the jamming of torpedo signals. For many years before that she enjoyed an avid interest in scientific and mechanical creations.

This is an historical fiction story based on a real person about whom not too much is known. Hedy was a brilliant woman who was under appreciated in a time when women’s contributions to science and business were ignored, belittled and disregarded. It was believed that a woman could not possibly come up with a solution to a major military problem that the brightest of men had yet to solve. This theme is clearly explored in the last third of the novel.

But why did Hedy feel the need to try to solve a major military defect? What motivated her to put her scientific abilities to use in such a way? The author ascribes a sense of survivor’s guilt to Hedy in that respect.  Another central theme throughout the story is Hedy’s belief that she’d overheard enough of Hitler’s plans for the Jewish population of Austria to have tried to warn more influential people and to have tried to help more people escape. She believed she only saved herself when she fled her abusive marriage and Austria. She believed she had to atone for the sin of protecting only for herself.

Mixed in with that conflict is the other motivating factor behind this intriguing woman: She also searched to be recognized as more than just a pretty face. She wasn’t just beautiful, she was breathtakingly gorgeous and as such was seen as an item to be coveted. Not many cared to find out about the heart, soul and mind underneath the lovely face.

Because these were the majors issues I picked out of the story, I felt a little cheated at the end of the tale. Yes, there are some limitations based on the fact that the narrative has to work with the context of real life events. However, the central conflicts are part of the fictional element. I do wish the story gave more detail as to if Hedy ever really found the absolution she sought or if she simply accepted her situation and society.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this story. The Vienna setting and the Hollywood backdrop are both delightfully described. I could almost feel the crisp Austrian cold and could imagine myself engulfed by the Hollywood buzz. The author’s historical note at the end also adds a level of depth and provides a better understanding of the character of Hedy Lamarr.

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed this book courtesy Sourcebooks and NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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In 1933 Hedy Kieslar is a famous Austrian actress, with her share of scandal, rumors, and lavish attention. With tension rising, her family must be careful about their Jewish heritage. The extravagant adorations of a well-connected arms dealer might be her family’s ticket to safety. But, his overwhelming control is hard for her to bear. At decadent parties, she starts to overhear Nazi plans and realizes that war is headed to Austria. 
This fictionalized account of the woman who became Hedy Lamarr is filled with facts, although some events seem to have been moved around to make the story flow. The portrayal of a smart, head-strong woman, in an impossible situation is entertaining. However, some parts of the story seem to be sped-along  to meet time-frames and to capture Hedy’s fascinating future as an American actress and scientist.
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Winter’s long days and even longer dark nights are a great time to dig into a good book, and this month’s Book Report has an historical novel and a memoir to enjoy.

Fans of historical fiction know Marie Benedict’s novels. They feature women who are not necessarily well-known, but who have been involved with famous men, Carnegie’s Maid and The Other Einstein among her most recent.

In her latest novel, The Only Woman in the Room, it is the woman herself who is the famous person. Actress Hedy Lamarr’s story is fictionalized here, and it is fascinating. 


Born in Vienna, young Hedy Keisler is becoming a recognized stage actress. When an older man, a known arms manufacturer, becomes infatuated with Hedy, her parents reluctantly encourage her to date him. He is an important man, well-connected to the government, and in 1930s Austria with the threat of Hitler looming and Hedy’s family being Jewish, to make an enemy of him could be dangerous.

Her husband is violent and controlling, and quick to anger. He uses Hedy as an accessory as he attempts to ingratiate himself to Hitler and his Nazi party. Hedy uses this to her advantage, sitting in meetings and eavesdropping on plans about the various arms that the Nazis are using in war.

When Hedy discovers that Hitler plans to eliminate the Jewish population not only in Germany, but also in Austria, she carefully plots her escape. After one unsuccessful attempt leaves her a prisoner in her own home, she escapes to America, where she works her way up in Hollywood.

She becomes a famous actress, but is haunted by what is going on in Europe. Hedy’s father encouraged her to study, and she was fascinated by science. When she was held prisoner, she pored over her husband’s technical arms books, learning much from them.

Hedy teamed up with a music composer to create a system for torpedoes to change frequencies, enabling them to bypass attempts to jam them. They worked endlessly for months, perfecting it and eventually getting a patent and submitting it to the government for use in war.

Hedy Lamarr’s role in this invention was relatively unknown until recently, and after reading The Only Woman in the Room, you’ll have an appreciation for her brains and work ethic, as well as her beauty and acting ability. Fans of Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens will enjoy this one.
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