• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 13, 2016)
From the cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the dazzling film studios of Hollywood’s golden age, an enthralling novel of a glamorous legend Maria Magdalena Dietrich was born for a life on the stage. Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, the willful teenager vows to become an actress and singer, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited decadence of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses—and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention—until she finds overnight success in her breakthrough film role as the cabaret singer Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel.
For Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler rises to power, she sets sail for America. Her image as an erotic temptress captures worldwide attention, and she becomes one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, starring in one high-profile film—and affair—after another. Though Hitler tries to lure her back to Germany, Marlene chooses instead to become a citizen of her new nation, even as America enters the war against her fatherland.
But one day, she must return to Germany, escorted by General George Patton himself. In the devastated cities and the concentration camps, she comes face-to-face with how the evils of fascism transformed her country, and the family she thought she knew.
Lushly descriptive, as alluring as the lady herself, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged a path on her own terms.
As I read the book I became totally engrossed in her story.
Yes, this is a fictional account, but it pulled me in and made me want to know more about this woman.
I really enjoyed learning about Marlene's younger years and her rise to stardom, especially her relationship with her mother that was strained at best. I've always found that the mark of a great historical novel is how much you fact check it while reading. I was really interested in her playing the violin. So many of the classic holiday stars played violin. (Think Jack Benny...who was actually pretty darn good at it)
I did this all the time while reading this book.
Marlene definitely had some interesting encounters and relationships with both men and women. She was definitely scandalous in a time when being open about who you had sex with was simply not the thing.
You also got a picture of Germany between the two great wars. This is really what made Marlene different from a lot of other people in her country at the time. She wasn't really political, but she knew what wasn't right. I especially liked learning how she did her best to help people get out of Nazi Germany and her work with the USO even though she was a woman that had a price on her head.
While reading I kept thinking, why aren't there any people now that feel this intriguing? There's no one in Hollywood now that I really care about or that I feel is very interesting. The actresses from the war years were something special. I don't think there is anyone in recent years to compare with ladies like Dietrich and Garbo.
Speaking of Garbo, the book ends rather abruptly when Marlene finally meets the other Hollywood actress who was considered her rival. There's a lot of rumors that the two had an affair, though none of that is alluded to here, just that Marlene would like to meet Garbo.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves classic Hollywood
Rating: 5 flowers
C. W. Gortner is the author of many bestselling historical novels—including Mademoiselle Chanel—which have been published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.
Find out more about C.W. Gortner at his website and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.