The Only Woman in the Room

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

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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Once again, Benedict has written a well researched & entertaining historical novel about a female who hasn't received the recognition she deserves for the impact she has made on history. I'm looking forward to discussing this one with my book club upon publication.
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This. Book. Marie Benedict has done it again! Going into this book, I can comfortably say that I knew next to nothing about the iconic Hedy Lammar, but by the end, she could have been my best friend. The way that this talented author is able to make prominent historical figures come alive so vibrantly within the pages, is just stunning. I simply couldn't put this book down, and HAD to know what was to come in this illuminating story.

To sum it up, we begin the story in Heidi Kiesler's (Hedy Lammar) younger lift, as she was in theater and acting, and saught out by "The Merchant of Death" who after seven short week, married her... and that's when things began to go south. What follows is an incredible journey of power and strength that we see from this woman, and most notably, the advancements and achievements in science and invention she contributes. 

What blows me away each time I read a Marie Benedict novel, this one being no exception, is how fascinating the author winds the true stories of these people's lives. It's like you're reading their actual biography, but with a fictional feel that makes it so engaging and keeps the pages turning. I was left so thoughtful and inspired by Lammar's story, and I'm so grateful that this author brought her story to life for readers to enjoy. 

I cannot praise this book enough, and will absolutely be recommending it to fans of historical fiction or simply people looking for an inspiring and well-written story! This one gets all the stars from me.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher Sourcebooks Landmark for the free review copy in exchange for my honest review.
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"The Only Woman in the Room" focuses on the life of movie star Hedy Lamarr whose contributions to science and the development of modern electronics has been largely overlooked.

Unfortunately, this novel doesn't really spend enough time on her scientific achievements or her career as a movie star to really do this woman justice. The novel is much stronger in its first half where it focuses on her first marriage to an arms dealer. I liked learning about her fraught relationship with her mother and husband and how she managed to get away.

After that, the novel becomes rather superficial and only skims over the most important developments in her life. There is no build-up to her becoming a movie star, her scientific achievements just happen, and the protagonist's actions aren't really consistent.

Overall, this novel focuses on an interesting woman but fails to do her justice.
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Growing up I used to hear my father exclaim about Hedy Lamarr's beauty and acting ability and until I read Benedict's novel, thought nothing more about inner persona . Benedict slices open her life from her marriage to a Austrian munitions manufacturer and subsequent move to Hollywood. Her career skyrocketed her to fame in the 40's and 50's and her scientific acumen led to her attempts to create a device to help the war efforts. The first half of the book concentrates on the years ushering in WWII as she grows up in Vienna, defining herself more as an Austrian than as a Jew. However, when the political upheavals in Hitler's Germany cause unease for her parents,, they encourage her marriage to the powerful Mandl, in hopes that his influence will keep her safe. Much attention is given to their lavish lifestyle, his treatment of her, her role as a stunning woman and also her silent cunning.  Fast forward to the second half of the book where her intellect is on full display as she works tirelessly to develop a device that few would have thought she was capable of. There are many parallels with today's society of the ubiquitous dismissal of  women's contributions to society through erroneous beliefs and a narrow vision of their abilities. The first half of the book felt stronger than the second half for me, and I wished she had ended the book with a smoother transition. However, those are small quibbles to pay for learning about this little known history of this intelligent impressive woman.
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If you love historical fiction that is based completely in the truth then this book is for you!  Hedy Kiesler was a real woman that had a unique viewpoint as Hitler was tearing across Europe.  She was married to an owner of an ammunitions plant and she was at many a party where things were said and alliances were made and broken.  

I LOVE a historical fiction that has me guessing where the truth ends and fiction begins.  I pulled up Wikipedia a few times to get a few thoughts on where the truth is/was.  Every time I read a book, and I read a lot, about World War II I think I have read it all and there isn't anything else that I could learn about the people, time and place, but this one was such a different viewpoint of the business behind war and how different leaders and countries reacted to Hitler and his ideas.  

I haven't read Marie Benedict's other two books and after reading this book they have moved up on my TBR list.  I loved her hyper focus on a female who maybe didn't make the history books, but maybe should!  Her other two books seem like the same, should I read The Other Einstein or Carnegie's Maid first?
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Hedwig Kiesler is a young wealthy Jewish girl living in Vienna.  She longs to be a famous actress but also is interested in science.  Her father encourages her to pursue both.  She is just gaining respect as an actress when she meets her biggest fan, Fritz Mandl.  Mandl has quite a reputation with women and as an Austrian arms dealer.  But Hedwig’s parents are concerned about the developing hatred for Jews and believes a marriage between Hedwig and Fritz will save them all.  Once Hedwig marries Fritz, she realizes she made a terrible mistake and is imprisoned and abused by her controlling husband.  She begins to listen in on conversations at their dinner parties and learns military secrets that she passes on to her husband, hoping to use those secrets to escape from him.  Those secrets lead her to become an inventor of a unique radio-communication devise that may help win the war.

I was completely riveted by this book and found it fascinating.  I well remember the actress Hedy Lamarr, having watched many of her old movies on TV when I was young.  I also knew that this beautiful actress was also the inventor of a radio guidance system that was eventually used in the development of Bluetooth and Wi-fi.  But this book opened up her world to me in such a mesmerizing way.  The author has a talent for bringing her characters to life.  Parts of this book read like a suspenseful thriller and I couldn’t put it down.  Most impressive was the focus the author gave to the difficulties Hedy encountered when she presented her invention to the navy and it was refused simply because they said it would be hard for them to sell their soldiers and sailors on a weapons system created by a woman and that they weren’t even going to try.  And this was decided when they had a faulty torpedo system in place.  She was told that she would do better selling war bonds.  I was so glad to read in a postscript that many years later, in the 1990’s, she was finally given recognition and awards for her invention.

Most highly recommended.
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Hedy Lamarr...European refugee, Hollywood siren, famous beauty, but scientist? Who knew? Marie Benedict's latest (The Other Einstein, Carnegie's Maid) takes on the story of the real Hedwig Kiesler and paints the picture of a complex, intriguing woman that she was, not as Hollywood portrayed her. Born into a Jewish family, Hedy was raised in Vienna, wed to a powerful man in the Nazi party, and a victim of abuse. Benedict spends half the book on Hedy's early life, showing us the traps she had to escape to become the woman of the silver screen. Her life in Hollywood, under the MGM studio system, is equally as fascinating as her escape from Nazi Austria. Once she gets involved with the invention of a radio system to improve torpedo accuracy, wow, just wow. This story is reminiscent of Hidden Figures and Radium Girls, as the "why didn't we know all this sooner?" factor. Having done outstanding research and delving deeply into the characters, this is definitely my favorite of Marie Benedict's historical fiction dynasty that she is building.
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This is a fictionalized life of Hedy Lamarr from the age of 19 to 28. Lamarr is best remembered as the stunningly beautiful and exotic Hollywood actress from the 1940’s and 50’s. The author tries to show that she was so much more.

The problem I had with the novelization that I didn’t really connect with the main character. It is 1933 in Vienna. Hedy Kiesler is introduced at just 19, a year after she made the notorious film Ecstasy where she swam naked and had a graphic sex scene with her leading man. She is onstage at the Theater of Vienna and responding to the thunderous applause she is getting for her role as the Empress Elizabeth. Suddenly a parade of ushers carry on dozens of bouquets of roses and lay them at her feet. The mysterious admirer is no other than Friedrich Mandl, a 34 year old arms manufacturer and the richest man in Vienna. Within weeks Hedy is engaged to be married to him. She may or may not actually love him but she follows her father’s advice that a marriage to him would keep her and her parents safe since they are nonpracticing Jews. She is strictly a trophy wife. He runs the household, chooses her wardrobe, and expects her to be a proper hostess to his many business associates. The only thing Hedy can do is listen and this she is good at. She does display a knack for remembering conversations and mentions something she overheard to her husband which helps him in a business deal. Thereafter, he expects her to eavesdrop and report any tidbits which are to his financial or political advantage. Finally, tired of her husband’s dominance and increasing jealous paranoia plus what she hears about the Nazi plans for Jews , she runs away to Hollywood.

The next 90 pages are about Hedy’s Hollywood career. She gets an MGM contract, foils attempts by Lois B Mayer to seduce her by becoming fast friends with his wife, and makes lots of movies few of which she is proud. She hates the frivolity of the Hollywood establishment, hangs about with the refugee community who bemoan the loss of European culture, gets married again and adopts a baby.

Only in the final chapters of the book does the reader get a glimpse of the brilliant Hedy. When a refugee ship filled with children is sunk, she remembers a conversation she had with a German scientist about the problem of guiding a torpedo to its target. She decides to design a guidance system to make torpedoes more accurate and to offer her invention to the US Navy. She and a songwriter friend do this in a few pages. The Navy rejects the design (fortunately she patented it) and she spends the war selling war bonds.

The only hints in the novel to her engineering brilliance are that she was a good student, read her husband’s trade magazines and books from his science library, and understood a problem that eludes both German and US scientists because she spoke to a torpedo expert for an hour at one of her dinner parties. How much more interesting it would have been to read about a woman who was a brilliant engineer but had to forego a career in science because she knew people would judge her for her beauty, not her brain. Instead, she is portrayed as an actress who, with little expertise, somehow manages to invent the field of Spread Spectrum Technology by thinking of a player piano roll
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The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict features the fantastical life of Hedy Lamarr. A stunning Hollywood starlet, Hedy was so much more than just a pretty face. During a time when women were thought of as property and decoration, Hedy Lamarr rose above societal standards with an invention that transformed modern communication.

I really enjoyed reading The Only Woman in the Room! I had never heard of Hedy Lamarr prior to reading this book (I must live under a rock?), but I’m so glad I got to hear her story. She was an inspirational woman who was not content with being a trophy wife or a glamorous actress. She had beauty and brains and wanted to put her passion for science to good use.

The Only Woman in the Room was well-written and fast-paced. The story was immediately engaging. Hedy Lamarr sucks you in from the opening chapter, and I couldn’t wait to find out where she’d go next.

Hedy’s story is amazing and somewhat unfathomable at times. In her birthplace of Austria, Hedy married a munitions factory owner who was high up in the political totem pole. Her husband, Fritz, rubbed shoulders with the likes of Hitler and Mussolini and was in the business of making money, not sound ethical decisions. Hiding a secret Jewish Heritage, Hedy escaped and made her way to Hollywood. Her early life was formidable and helped shape her passion for radio communication. She wanted to help win the war, and she did this through science and her power as a celebrity.

I loved Hedy’s no-nonsense demeaner. She understood her value and forced others to see her worth. When she was told “no,” she persisted until she received a “yes.” She was charming, independent, and relentlessly determined. She was—truly—a very neat woman.

My only gripe with The Only Woman in the Room was the ending. It felt too abrupt. I was expecting the book to go on for several pages, but it ended suddenly, leaving me hanging. I was left wanting to know more. An additional chapter summarizing the rest of Hedy’s life would have been welcomed. Regardless, I still enjoyed the book immensely despite the ending. 

If you enjoy historical fiction—especially books inspired by real people—check out The Only Woman in the Room. You won’t be disappointed!
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Hedy Kiesler is beautiful and talented and popular. Her roles in films and on-stage garners the attention of Fritz Mandl, a powerful arms dealer. Their marriage allows her to avoid the persecution of Jewish people in 1930s Austria, and she also uses her position to learn more about Hitler’s plans.

One night, she flees both her domineering husband and Austria on the brink of war, becoming Hedy Lamarr in Hollywood. But Hedy is not only an actress: she’s also an inventor. And, feeling guilty that she managed to escape Europe, she develops an idea to stop the war.

Before she was Hedy Lamarr, the “exotic” European actress in Hollywood, she was Hedy Kiesler, a Jewish girl from Vienna. Hedy was only 19 years old in 1933, when Hitler was elected in Germany and rumours were swirling about an invasion into Austria.

A good chunk of the book follows Hedy’s marriage with Fritz Mandl, who was an ardent admirer of Hedy’s acting and beauty. They had a rather abusive marriage, with Fritz imposing strict rules on Hedy and punishing her if she didn’t fulfill his ridiculous expectations. Hedy lived in fear of Fritz, who was also extremely powerful in Austria: he owned several munitions factories and was (supposedly) trying to work against Hitler. As the Nuremberg Laws were passed to strip the rights of Jewish people, Hedy began fearing for the lives of her own people.

I really enjoyed this part of the book. While I could not initially sympathize with Hedy, who came off as rather spoiled and self-centred, I was very interested in her marriage with Fritz—and all the ways she tried negotiating her identity as a woman and as person of Jewish heritage. I thought she was a very self-possessed and strong female icon for the era, who was aware of her own body and its effects on men but who also did not wish to be used or remembered solely for it.

When Hedy ultimately fled to America, developing connections to recreate herself and become Hedy Lamarr, I felt the book wasn’t as compelling. While Hedy continued to negotiate her identity as a woman who did not want to be silenced, she became extremely disconnected from the war because she was literally on the other side of the world. The war had been a major potential conflict for the majority of the book, a looming inevitable force that would tear apart the world. But Hedy escaped safely from both the war and Fritz, who had served as the “antagonist” until that point. And this was obviously not the author’s fault since this was simply following reality, but it sort of left the book without a purpose once Hedy got to America.

The part of the book that suffered the most was the final portion, which focuses on Hedy’s attempt to invent something to help the Americans beat the Germans. Yes folks, Hedy Lamarr was a legit inventor. Which is amazing! But it would have also been cooler if Hedy didn’t seem to come to the idea so quickly. I don’t care if she woke up one day with an epiphany to stop the war, it just felt so unrealistic because she arrived at the perfect plan almost instantaneously and seemed to have very little difficulty in making it work—despite her lack of education in such an area. I’m not refuting the fact that Hedy created such a thing, I just wish it had a better representation and explanation in the novel.

Probably the most realistic and well-written part of this section was her frustration at men not taking her invention seriously simply because she was a woman. That’s a common theme in the novel, of Hedy needing to deal with misogynistic idiots, and I really appreciated the inclusion of her struggle.

Overall, the book was very mixed for me. It definitely had its highs—Hedy’s marriage with Fritz, her attempts to be taken seriously as a woman and to have autonomy—but its lows were kinda low. The book tried too hard to do a lot in little time. While the book’s part in Austria was incredibly strong and compelling, the American portion definitely suffered. Not to mention, the book ends very abruptly. I was 95% in, wondering how it would wrap up,  and suddenly—it was over. I actually had to go back and stare at the last paragraph because I was so in shock over it ending so suddenly.

If you are at all interested in Hedy Lamarr's life—or even just interested in a historical woman who is usually known for her beauty but was also so much more—this is a good book for you.
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The Only Woman in the Room, like her previous work, The Other Einstein, is a historical novel-based-on-fact look and the life and contributions of women in science written by Marie Benedict. The Only Woman in the Room follows the life and times of Austrian actress Hedy Kiesler, through her youthful marriage to munitions manufacturer Friedrich Mandl.  Following her escape from Austria and Mandl in 1937, she fled to the USA where she began a film career as Hedy Lamarr. Hedy made important and far reaching contributions to science and held several copyrights with her associate Gilbert Adrian for technology that is still important today. She was not 'just another pretty face'.   

I received a free electronic copy of The Only Woman in the Room from Netgalley, Marie Benedict, and Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
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Hedwig Kiesler was an Austrian born beauty that most people remember as Hedy Lamarr, the glamorous Hollywood movie star from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Talented, beautiful, exotic and married six times - her intelligence was not the first thing one might  have noticed. But Hedy was brilliant, observant and possessed a confidence that quickly catapulted her to stardom. She was a powerful woman at a time when women were often put in their place on the arm of an important man. The Only Woman in the Room shares the story of Hedy’s life from her early days as a young stage actress in Vienna, to dinners she shared with Nazi’s and her first husband Fritz who manufactured weapons and played both sides of a very dangerous game. Later, Hedy made her escape to Hollywood and fulfilled her self imposed penance with inventions that could change the war and the world. Another fabulous work of historical fiction by author Marie Benedict, who brings these female figures to life. Highly recommend this incredible new page turner!
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Marie Benedict has introduced me once again to a fascinating historical figure. This excellent novel begins in the early days of newly appointed chancellor Adolf Hitler. It showcases the life and vast accomplishments of beautiful and intelligent Heidi Kiesler (aka Hedi Lamarr). An incredible and surprising life story that begins when as a young actress, she catches the eye of wealthy Friedrich Mandl, the renowned ‘Merchant of Death’ and Austria’s richest man. His charm during their whirlwind romance (seven weeks) was short-lived. After marrying Hedi, he becomes controlling and abusive. She eventually escapes from his “rules, locks and fury” but does not fade into the sunset. She goes on to make significant contributions in the world of invention and scientific achievements. Sad that as she neared the end of her life, things went awry.

A WOW of a book. In fact, I recommend reading all of Benedict’s books. A master at bringing fascinating historical characters to life.

**Will post online closer to publication.
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A young Austrian actress marries a powerful arms dealer to keep her and her family safe from the growing Nazi threat. Despite her incredible beauty and intelligence, she is treated like a piece of art that her husband can display when he choses. However she has kept her eyes and ears open and now must make a bold escape to save her life. This was an incredible story about the amazing brilliant beauty who became a Hollywood legend. I was fascinated by her journey and her determination to be seen as more than just a pretty face. This book has certainly sparked my interest to know more about the woman who became Hedy Lamarr. Excellent book!
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I expect great things from this book, WOW, one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read and I’ve read quite a few. The writing is stellar, the story line never drags, and it is a beautiful rendition of Hedy Lamarr’s life, so tastefully done. She was a multi-talented woman, not only gorgeous, but also kind and highly intelligent. 
This book has it all, it has a love story, has tragedy, heartache, abuse, determination, lots of WWII information on the supply of ammunitions from Fritz Mandl and surprisingly does not overlook Hedy’s accomplishments as an inventor even though she was considered the most beautiful actress in pictures at that time. I loved it, this was so much better than reading about a couple of famous writers that dwelled on their inadequacies, not in this case, she was a remarkable woman and this book does her justice of which she deserves. I just may have to see about watching some of her movies. I am SO glad I read this wonderful book. Well done!!!!
I was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to receive this book from Sourcebooks Landmark through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This one gets a high 5*****'s.
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