Hedy Lamarr’s life is anything but a typical story. In the historical fiction novel, The Only Woman in the Room (2019), Marie Benedict uses historical facts to highlight a decade of Hedy’s life. The book opens with Hedy on Stage, bedazzling an Austrian audience in 1933 and ends in Hollywood 1942.
In between, we are taken into the mind of a beautiful woman, who is a prisoner in her own home. She had wealth and fame but no power. What fascinated me the most, was Hedy’s relationship with Judaism. She was born a Jew but had no connection to it. She even marries in an Austrian Church. After fleeing Europe, Hedy again faces the choice of embracing her Judaism or burying it. She opts to keep her Jewish Heritage secret because no Jews work in Hollywood, yet no matter how deeply she tries to hide her Judaism, it gnaws at her.
Hedy was aware of top-level Nazi plans long before much of the rest of the world. The Only Woman in the Room is not a Holocaust story or a story of an actress rising to fame. It is the story of a strong woman striving to be taken seriously in a man’s world. I will admit to knowing almost nothing about this movie star, through Benedict’s novel I learned that Hedy was way more than a pretty face.
There are book discussion questions in the back of the book. I wish the author provided more details about what was factual and what was invented. I also want to know what happened to the people Hedy left behind in Austria. I really enjoyed this peek into the world of Hedy Lamarr!