Desert Isle Keeper
The Only Woman in the Room
Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room is the story of Hedy Lamarr, a woman best known for her roles on the silver screen. Ms. Benedict looks deeper into Hedy’s life, bringing us an engrossing tale of a woman who is both brilliant and beautiful.
Hedy Kieseler is a Jewish woman married to an Austrian arms dealer. She’s well-known for her beauty, and manages to land a starring role in a feature film. Her fame, coupled with her husband’s military connections, are enough to keep Hedy safe as anti-semitism sweeps across Europe.
Unfortunately, Hedy’s marriage is not a happy one. Her husband is prone to fits of rage, and she is usually the target of these fits. She does her best to hide her abuse from the world, but she’s desperate to find a way out. Slowly, she begins to devise a plan, and in 1937, she manages to flee to the United States.
Once she’s out from under her husband’s control, Hedy starts a new life for herself in Hollywood. She changes her name to Hedy Lamarr, and it doesn’t take her long to become Hollywood’s golden girl. She’s finally safe, but what about the Jews she left behind?
What readers may not know is that Hedy was much more than a pretty face, and that behind her dazzling smile lurked a brilliant mind. Hedy had always been fascinated by science, and she decided to turn this fascination into a way to aid the war effort. She began developing a weapon powerful enough to stop Hitler’s rise to power.
I don’t know much about science, and my knowledge of how weapons are made is practically non-existent, so I wasn’t sure this would be a book I’d enjoy. I was afraid it would be full of scientific details, but Ms. Benedict managed to keep me thoroughly engaged. We do learn a bit about the weapon Hedy develops, but the narrative isn’t at all dry or boring. This is definitely a book that will appeal to science buffs, but it will be equally enjoyable to those who are more interested in Hedy Lamarr as a whole person rather than simply for her contribution to the field of science.
The story is broken up into two very distinct parts. The first half of the book focuses on Hedy’s life in Austria, while the second illuminates her Hollywood successes and scientific study. Stories about World War II are of particular interest to me, as are books that are set in 1940’s Hollywood, so I enjoyed both sections of the story equally. The author does a great job bringing the people and places she writes about to life for the reader, making this a book that was hard for me to put down.
It’s clear Ms. Benedict did a great deal of research into Hedy’s life before beginning to write her story. Not much seems to be known about Hedy’s life in Austria, but the story the author tells here feels completely plausible. She remains true to Hedy’s character, never creating situations or conflict that feel contrived.
Hedy Lamarr was a fascinating woman I knew almost nothing about before picking up this book. I’m so glad Ms. Benedict chose to tell her story, bringing her to the attention of today’s readers. The world needs more stories like this one.