When I created my list of book that I am looking forward to reading in 2019, I purposefully chose books that would stretch my reading. This included adding more historical fiction to my reading life. Previous to reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I really hadn’t read much from the historical fiction genre. The Nightingale was a best seller for a reason and made me hungry
Before reading this book, if you would have asked me who Hedy Lamarr was I probably would have said, “I think she was a movie starlet back in the ’40s.” That’s where my knowledge of Hedy would have ended. And if I was a betting woman, I would guess that is probably where your knowledge of her ends as well. Oh, but she was so much more! Movie star Hedy Lamarr used to be Hedy Kiesler, a Jewish woman married to a powerful Austrian arms dealer. But that isn’t the only secret she is hiding when she arrives in Hollywood. She also has an idea, an invention, that might save the country and end the war.
I always appreciate a quick read. Always. Not known for being a speed reader, I get a lot of satisfaction out of a book that I can finish within a couple of days. The Only Woman in the Room certainly provided that, and although I appreciated its brevity, it also left me wanting more. Rarely will you hear me say, “I needed more details!” (Usually, it’s quite the reverse.) But this book left me wanting more.
Part One of the book is about Hedy’s time in Austria and her marriage to Fritz Mandl, known for his business dealings with Mussolini and Hitler. I thought there were plenty of details about this part of her life and found it all exciting and interesting. Part Two is all about her arrival in America, her movie career, and her invention of a Secret Communication System. This was where I wanted more. She was a woman in the 1940’s creating an invention that she hoped would be used by the military to jam submarine radio frequencies. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but let’s just say that being a woman creating such a devise to be accepted by the military which is dominated by men wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. This is where the story fell short for me. I wanted more info – not a ton, but a little – on this period of Hedy’s life. I feel like I only got a snapshot when what I ended up wanting was a full feature film.
Regardless, I enjoyed learning about Hedy and how her invention impacted much more than just our military. (Hint: it was used in that little thing you’re probably reading this post on right this second.) If you’re looking for a quick read about a true story that is all about Girl Power, then this is a great book for you!
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
Published by Sourcebooks, January 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Where I read it: cozied up on a few rare rainy California days
Stephenie’s Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars