The Only Woman in the Room

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I enjoyed this book tremendously.  It was very interesting to know about the early life of Hedy Lamarr before she became famous.  The fact that she was able to get away from Austria and her first husband was pretty amazing. She went on to become a movie star in Hollywood but she never forgot the country and the people she left behind. She had a very high intellect and wanted desperately to help with the war effort.
She and a friend of hers invented and patented a device that would direct torpedoes by using radio waves. The Navy, however, refused to switch over to this.  After this Hedy still continued to help with the war effort in other ways.

I received this sec in exchange for my honest review.  Thank you..
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars

I've recently become familiar with the fascinating story of Hedy Lamarr and was excited to get a chance to read this fictionalized autobiography of her life. I can't speak to the overall accuracy as I'm not familiar with all the details of Ms. Lamarr's story, but I thought I noticed a few discrepancies based on what little I have seen/read previously, but again, I can't be sure. The first half of the book deals with her life in pre-war Austria starting immediately before she met the man who would later become her first husband. There is a lot of time and effort spent on details that, while not necessarily vital to the plot, help set the tone of her life and lifestyle.

The second half of the book seemed to jump large periods of time and mention important events somewhat in passing (e.g. her mother's leaving Europe for London and later, Canada). Maybe those jumps only seemed more noticeable after the slower, more "detailed" pace of the first half of the book but they felt somewhat jarring to me. Also, the repetitive "could I have stopped the Nazis had I only said something to someone?" mantra seemed a bit ridiculous, self-important and overblown, not to mention repetitive. Maybe it can be classified as survivor's guilt?

The ending was surprisingly abrupt with no real conclusion. Even a shot "summary" epilogue would have been better than nothing although the author's note does a little more to wrap things up for the reader. If nothing else, I now have a desire to sit down and binge watch several Hedy Lamarr movies and do some more research into her interesting life.

*copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.*
Was this review helpful?
THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM is a fictionalized version of Hedy Lamarr's life. Previously Hedy Kiesler, she was married to Friedrich "Fritz" Mandl an Austrian arms dealer who was in political bed with every single evil guy from WW2 you can think of. Friedrich is abusive towards Hedy but expects her to attend his important dinners are arm candy; what he doesn't realize is that Hedy is intelligent and is always listening and she picks up information during every single dinner. Hitler visits their house one day to discuss arms and machinery, completely solidifying the knowledge Hedy had brewing at the back of her mind: her husband, once against an Austrian-Germany merger, is completely on board with Hitler. She escapes Austria armed with knowledge - of the war, and of scientific methods. In Part 2 Kiesler becomes Lamarr when she breaks into Hollywood's scene. Through her survivor's guilt she forms a friendship with a composer, George Antheil, and together they make a scientific discovery that could change the war.

I am ashamed to say that my first introduction to Hedy Lamarr was in the television show TIMELESS's third episode of their second season. It's criminal that we as a society don't know more about the female inventors of this world. Thankfully there are women (and some men) like Marie Benedict who are striving to educate us. I'm not sure how much of this story is rooted in fact, but from Benedict's author's note it seems like even the fiction she wrote for it was based off of substantive rumors and opinions.

I quite liked this novel. I enjoyed part 1 significantly more than part 2; Hedy's life in Austria was extremely interesting to me and would have enjoyed a full novel of just that. Her perseverance to be a good person inspired me; she was surrounded by people who were, safe to say, disgusting, and instead of letting herself be swept up in it (ie: she would have been safe since Hitler told Mandl that he and his wife would be awarded 'Honorary Aryan') she fought back as much as she could while in Austria, and then more once in Hollywood.

I look forward to reading more of Benedict's historical fiction.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Hedy Lamarr was a famous beauty and screen actress in the golden age of Hollywood, but few knew about her passion for science and invention--and what drove her to innovate. Ending a promising stage career in Vienna to marry a munitions dealers and protect her family as anti-Semitism and fascism closed in on Austria, Lamarr found herself imprisoned--and privy to insider conversations of the Third Reich. Upon her escape to Hollywood, she becomes a star but is plagued by a sense of duty to use her knowledge. And so begins a quest to assist the Allies with an invention that could change the course of the war--if they'll listen to a woman.

The Only Woman in the Room is a riveting fictional account of woman previously only known for her beauty and acting. Benedict makes real the life of a charismatic woman who refuses to be one dimensional and whose innovations contributed to the technologies we now use every day.
Was this review helpful?
Hedy Keisler was a beautiful actress determined to enjoy her career and make her own choices. But when a powerful Austrian arms dealer courts her and proposes, she realizes that this is a chance to keep herself and her Jewish family safe from the horrors that are about to engulf Europe. Hedy pretends to be a proper wife while listening closely to Nazi information and planning her escape. Once she leaves Europe, she moves to Hollywood and becomes one of the most famous film actresses of her era. But her greatest accomplishment is one that few know about: Hedy Lamarr spent her evenings developing the technology that could help the Allies win the war.

The Only Woman in the Room covers much of Hedy Lamarr's life, but unfortunately Marie Benedict covers so much time that we never really feel like we know Hedy herself. It must be a delicate task to try to bring  a real person to life, but I found myself wishing Hedy had a more compelling voice and we got to really dive into her life instead of skimming through important moments.  I was also puzzled by how she gained enough knowledge to work on her inventions; the only time we ever hear about her being interested in science is when her father read her interesting articles about science or politics. We get no background into her scientific training; instead she suddenly seems to have the know-how to create groundbreaking technology.

I was thrilled to learn more about Hedy Lamarr in The Only Woman in the Room. I knew she was a scientist in addition to being an actress, but I didn't know the details of her life before reading this book. While this version of Hedy's story fell flat for me, I am glad that Marie Benedict is bringing incredible women to the attention of readers and I will certainly be reading more about Hedy's fascinating life and work.


The Only Woman in the Room
By Marie Benedict
Sourcebooks Landmark January 2019
272 pages
Read via Netgalley
Was this review helpful?
I liked it up until the middle. I felt that there was too much internal dialogue while she was trying to get out of Austria then there was this rush to get through her time in Hollywood so that the author could get to the invention. It just lost me.
Was this review helpful?
Marie Benedict is an amazing writer. I really enjoyed reading Carnagie’s Maid after its release in 2018. Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the privilege of reading an e-arc of The Woman in the Room in exchange for an honest review. 

I was in love with Hedy Lamarr as a character. 
She was a very strong and powerful woman with great beauty and an amazing intellect.A woman always with a plan and the determination to do anything she set her mind to. A woman who reinvented herself after suffering loss and abuse. 

The first half of the book was so so. I found myself very disinterested in the political parts. However that being said Benedict taught me things I didn’t know about WWII and I read a lot of WWII fiction. 

Without giving too much away the second half of this book was by far my favorite. Hedy’s time in Hollywood was so exciting to read about. I loved Old Hollywood glamor and this book was full of great atmosphere. 

I also enjoyed the different relationships Hedy had in her life and how she treated those people. Specifically her mother. You can see great character growth as the story progresses and Hedy gets older. 

I will be purchasing a copy of this book and recommend it to my friends. Give it a little pass around before it finds a personal home on my bookshelf.
Was this review helpful?
Hedy Lamarr was a remarkable woman in a tumultuous time. Always underestimated by her male counterparts, who only perceived beauty with no depth. That has, unfortunately, not changed. Women are either beautiful or not before all else. I love this story because it highlights a relevant problem so many years later in a male centered society.
Was this review helpful?
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

This fascinating biographical fiction novel tells the story of Hedwig “Hedy” Keisler, better known to the world as the actress Hedy Lamarr. The story begins with Hedy’s life in Austria, working as an actress just prior to WWII. Born to Jewish parents, Hedy comes to the attention of military munitions manufacturer Friedrich Mandl. After a brief courtship, Hedy agrees to marry Mandl in the hopes that he will protect her and her parents from the lengthening shadow of Hitler’s Nazi regimen.  However, she soon discovers that her new husband is a controlling, jealous and often abusive man. He tries to control every aspect of her life, even locking her up in their home, to keep her from leaving him. Hedy is privy to her husband’s meetings with high-level political and military operatives and she uses that time to absorb and learn all she can about their progress and plans. She finally escapes her husband and makes her way to Hollywood to begin a career in film. In Hollywood, Hedy realizes that she needs to be more than just another beautiful starlet. Suffering from survivor’s guilt at the outbreak of World War, Hedy uses all she learned from her former husband’s contacts, and becomes an inventor of a radio-guided torpedo system that will aid the Allies in their war against the Axis.

The Only Woman in the Room reads like a story ripped from today’s headlines. It deals with Antisemitism, the rise of Nationalism, abuse and control of women, immigration and refuges and even the long practice of Hollywood moguls abuse of power. This is an engrossing story of a women who refused to be defined by her beauty alone. This is a captivating story of a complicated women who was so much more than the starlet up on the screen. A great read for historical fiction fans as well as those who enjoy stories of WWII and old Hollywood.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.  This book is historical fiction about the actress Hedy Lamarr who until this book I have never heard of.  This was extremely well written and grabbed my attention thoroughly.  Part 1 was definitely the stand out about her life in Austria and marriage to Fritz Mandl.  I found my heard breaking for her during this time as a Jewish woman living with the changes that her country were enduring with the change of power.   Part 2 is of her time as an actress in Hollywood after she escapes. her country and husband.  Well the story was still good it felt rushed.  I kept looking on info on her on the internet and I feel like the author skimmed over some of the most important parts of her life.   Overall enjoyable, just wanted more.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novel.  I enjoyed this historical fiction regarding Hedy Lamar in WWII.     I didn't know of hedys back ground and was fascinated at the endurance and intelligence of Hedy!    Using her connections as wife of a powerful mutuins man, she decides to flee Europe and start life anew in the USA.   This was a great piece of history to read about and repeatedly kept wanting to thank hedy for not giving up on herself or creating change in the good ole boys clubs.   I can't wait for more by this author
Was this review helpful?
The Only Woman in the Room is a good historical novel, focusing a lot on the Nazi period. 
I discovered Marie Benedict at BEA when it was set in Chicago a few years ago, and really enjoyed The Other Einstein, as well as Carnegie’s Maid. So I just decided to read The Only Woman in the Room, without knowing anything about her subject. Surprise!

And I realized it was a historical novel based on the life of Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, aka Hedy Lamarr! Whom I actually didn’t know much about.

I have to say, I’m actually a bit disappointed by the book.
It definitely has great dimensions, especially when it describes the pre- and first years of the rising of the Nazis in Germany, Austria, and Italy. And how Hedy’s first marriage was almost like an old days alliance, to assure her Jewish family would be on the safe side. But the personality of her rich husband is going to introduce dramatical changes in Hedy’s life and theatrical career.

And those changes were well presented, showing the totally claustrophobic side of her new situation. And what she had to resort to in order to survive and reinvent herself and become the famous actress we now know.

One element we don’t know for sure about Hedy is the adoption of a boy. Based on the context, I thought Benedict’s idea made sense.

Now, totally by chance, I happened to see at my public library a graphic “novel” presenting the biography of the same person:  Hedy Lamarr, An Incredible Life, by William Roy and Sylvain Dorange.
And when I told my husband what I was reading, he suggested we watch the movie on her life: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.
These two other works made me realize Benedict’s book was not really balanced:  about 60% of the book pertain to her life in Austria before her escape! Knowing all that comes after, I think too many pages were dedicated to just these few years.

Plus, in all these pages, the author does not mention Hedy’s curious and scientific mind. So it comes out of nowhere when she finally gets to come up with inventions based on her discovery of frequency hopping in Hollywood.
Both the graphic novel I read and the movie I watched show how this aspect of her mind was developed very early on. She was already trying inventing things when she was 5, inspired by her father who would explain to her how things around her worked, such as tramways, for instance.

I think Marie Benedict should have replaced this major aspect of her character in her early development. For me, that would have even more highlighted the dichotomy the author tries to show, between the popular image we have of Hedy’s beautiful face and body, while totally disregarding her intelligence.
Was this review helpful?
“... unless we begin to view historical women through a broader, more inclusive lens—and rewrite them back into the narrative—we will continue to view the past more restrictively than it likely was, and we risk carrying those perspectives over into the present.”
(Author’s Note)

I am so thrilled that Marie Benedict continues to write these fabulous testimonials. I read and reviewed her, Carnegie’s Maid (HERE) and couldn’t wait to read her latest on film star, Hedy (Kiesler) Lamarr. I was not disappointed as once again she delivered great insight into yet another female from history. Obviously a combination of both fact and fiction, Benedict interweaves the two seamlessly providing a fascinating spotlight on this woman. A golden years of Hollywood actress she may have been, but Hedy was also an incredibly intelligent and pioneering woman and I truly appreciated learning more about her research and discoveries with regards to her communication invention. 

‘All the rage storming within me evaporated, leaving a hollow, if beautiful, shell. Perhaps the shell was all this world wanted from me. And perhaps the world would never allow me my penance.’

I remember as a child watching the old black and white movies with my Mum but I never knew Hedy was also accredited (only recently) with contributions to a radio guidance system (something that helped today's development of wifi and bluetooth technology). Benedict presents Hedy’s life from a young age in Austria to her stardom in Hollywood. Whilst I appreciated the glamour of her rise to fame, it was more the personal story that really had me engaged and following up with Google searches to learn more still. Her self doubts and resilience to persevere were inspiring. 

‘I had always been alone under my mask, the only woman in the room.’

The pacing is spot on from beginning to end being told through the eyes of Hedy herself. I am glad that Benedict devoted suitable research and time in the story to the legacy that Hedy is now attributed with. Just the right about of detail with regards to patents and the incredible process - both in creation and recognition - that Hedy and George Antheil went through. 

‘Time buckled and then folded back onto itself, back to the night that changed everything. That night sent me on the path I stood upon today, one fraught with overwhelming guilt, the pursuit of redemption, and, occasionally, unexpected joy.’

Thank you Marie Benedict for continuing to bring to light amazing stories of women who may have been relegated to the shadows for their achievements. You truly bought the character that was Hedy Lamarr both on and off the screen - from her escape from Nazism to her relentless pursuit to try and make a difference to the outcome of WWII - to life.  I cannot wait to see who you will lift the curtain on next. 

‘Would it really be possible that in creating an invention to fight against the Third Reich, I could atone for my sins? That in saving the lives of those impacted by naval warfare, I could balance out the scales of justice for those I’d left behind in Austria? And was it possible that in the process, I might become known as more than Hedy, the “pretty face”?


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
Was this review helpful?
I read and enjoyed Carnegie’s Maid, and I have been looking forward to reading Marie Benedict’s latest fictional portrayal of a strong woman. In this instance, she has written about Hedy (Kiesler) Lamarr. 

Born Jewish, Hedy Kiesler later finds herself an actress married to an Austrian arms dealer. Hedy is able to use her powerful position to avoid Nazi persecution. At the same time, her husband is controlling and difficult, and one evening in 1937, she disguises herself and flees. 

Where does she land? None other than Hollywood, and this is where she becomes the notorious Hedy Lamarr, famous movie star. Not only is Lamarr a stunning and well-loved actress hiding her Jewish heritage, she is also a brilliant scientist with an idea that may save her new country- that is, if anyone will take her seriously. 

I found The Only Woman in the Room to be engrossing and enchanting. Hedy Lamarr is a strong female figure we need to know about, not just for her film legacy, but for her scientific contributions as well. Kudos to Marie Benedict for highlighting an extraordinary woman with a powerfully-written story. Fans of World War II fiction will find much to love in this fascinating story. 

Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Hedy Lamarr – Hollywood Star of the glorious 1940s with an unknown past. She grew up in Vienna where she had her first successful performances which attracted the attention of Fritz Mandl, an influential military arms manufacturer. Being Jewish wasn’t that big a problem at the time, but her father already felt that refusing a man like Mandl added to their religion wasn’t a good idea and thus, she first accepted the invitation to dinner and finally married him. But soon after their honeymoon, things changed drastically and the only role she was allowed to play was that of the silent wife who was nice to look at. What her husband did underestimate was her quick wit and her capacity of listening. And listen she did when he met the big players who prepared for a new world order with the help of her husband’s weapons. After her successful escape to the US, she used her intelligence and her knowledge for revenge: she developed a radio guidance system for torpedoes.

Admittedly, I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr before starting to read the novel. And even at the beginning I supposed the protagonist was simply a fictional character. When I became aware of the actual background, the woman’s life felt even more impressive than just the narration which I already liked a lot.

The actress is the narrator and centre of the novel and it does not take too long for the reader to figure out that she isn’t just the nice face and talented actress but a smart woman interested in everyday politics with a sharp and alert mind. She follows her father’s line of thoughts about Mandl’s advances and understands that she isn’t in a position to freely decide. The way she planned her escape shows not only how clever she can plot but also her courage. In America she is first reduced to the beautiful actress and it surely hit her hard when her invention was refused by the navy. If it rally was because she was a woman as the novel suggests or if there were other motives doesn’t really matter – she wasn’t recognised for what she was, but only for what people saw in her. Hopefully narratives of these kind of women help to change the mind of those who still believe that the looks go hand in hand with a simple mind.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Netgalley the author and publishers for a copy of this book.  A great read that couldn't be more relevant in a year where we've celebrated 100 years of the vote for women. The struggles Hedy Kiesler undergoes to highlight her intellect in a world where a woman's beauty is paramount. Her men friends underestimate her capabilities which develop through the novel,  beginning as an Austrian Jewish actress who flees an abusive marriage to an influential arms manufacturer for the lights of America and Hollywood.
Was this review helpful?
The Only Woman in the Room tells the story of the Austrian American actress Hedy Lamarr. Starting with her life in Vienna as a 19 year old girl, and ending with her contributions towards the war in America, Hedy’s story is nothing short of spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Hedy and her life experiences. 

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
An inspiring book about a remarkable woman. This is a fictionalised account of screen siren Hedy Lamarr, known for her beauty, but not recognised until recently for her outstanding contribution to science. The first part of the book is set in pre-WW2 Austria, where as an aspiring actress she is forced into marriage with a notorious arms dealer. As the trophy wife she is privy to many dinner parties and clandestine meetings between powerful heads of state, and with her amazing intelligence she takes in a lot more than those that dismissed her as an airhead realise. Fast forward to the second part of the book, she has escaped Austria and her abusive marriage. She lands in Hollywood where she soon becomes a famous screen star, but behind the façade hides a guilt about the plight of her people in Austria during WW2, that she feels she didn't do enough to try to save before she fled. So using the knowledge of those pre-war meetings she starts to devise a weapon to try to bring an end to the war more swiftly.
Honestly, before I read this book I didn't know much about Hedy Lamarr, except for being a Hollywood starlet. Marie Benedict tells a well researched tale about a woman that the world owes a lot to. Not a lot is known about her days in Austria, but Benedict's version could well be very close to the truth. I. for one, have a newfound respect for Lamarr, and will have to look out for some of her movies. A recommended read for those who love inspirational women.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Lindas Book Obsession Reviews “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict Sourcebooks Landmark, January 8, 2019

Lindas Book Obsession Reviews “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict, Sourcebooks Landmark, January 8, 2019

Marie Benedict, Author of “The Only Woman in the Room” has written an intriguing, captivating, dramatic, entertaining, suspenseful and intense novel. The Genres for this novel are Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for the story is around World War Two. The story goes into the past when it pertains to the characters or events in the story. The story takes place in Austria, and in Hollywood California. The Author describes her colorful cast of characters as complex and complicated.

Hedy Kiesler is a Jewish actress in Austria. Hedy is described as gorgeous and talented. The time is just before World War Two, and the political feel in Austria is tense. For her safety, her parents are convinced to let her marry a wealthy and political munitions dealer. Her husband is supposed to be a guarantee to protect her from Nazi Germany. He is friends with Benito Mussolini. Hedy and her husband get married in church. Hedy realizes that he is abusive, and as the political climate changes, she tries to escape. There are many things that Hedy hears in the house. 

Eventually Hedy arranges to escape, and gets to Hollywood. She becomes Hedy Lamarr. 

Hedy Lamarr is one of the most famous and beautiful actresses, but liked to experiment with scientific projects. Some of her ideas were brought to the attention of the United States Navy. They were initially dismissed because Hedy was a woman. It is only years later, that we realize how intelligent and powerful she was.

I loved the way Marie Benedict vividly described the landscape and scenery in Austria, and the Hollywood scene. I would highly recommend this amazing novel for readers who enjoy Historical Fiction. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Hedy Lamarr was a lady with many faces. She was raised in Austria. She became a well-known actress with a risqué movie to her credit. Then she was wooed by an arms dealer. To help protect her family, she marries him. She literally became a prisoner in her own home. She overhears many discussions and secrets. At this time in her life, she has no idea what to do with these secrets. Then, she finally escapes! It took a few failed attempts with severe consequences.

Marie Benedict did a fantastic job with Hedy Lamarr. I knew a little about her but, apparently, not enough. What a strong, amazing woman. She escapes an abusive husband, takes on Hollywood, and creates a communications marvel to help take on the Nazis. How did I not know this! I love strong women. Hedy Lamarr just topped the list.

I love Marie Benedict! She always teaches me something. I have read all her books and this is her best. And I have given her other books 5 stars! But this one….oh boy!

I received this novel from Sourcebooks via Netgalley for a honest review
Was this review helpful?