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  • Writer's picturemeredithjohnson

Book Review: The Only Woman in the Room By Marie Benedict

The Only Woman in the Room is the true story of famed movie star Hedy Lamarr. But before she was an American movie star, she was Hedy Kiesler Austrian stage actress and wife to a powerful Austrian arms dealer during the rise of the Nazi party. This allowed her access to secret Third Reich information during lavish parties thrown by her husband. Though most thought of her as only a pretty face in the room, she was very intelligent. In 1937 she escaped her overbearing and cruel husband and fled to America. There, she became Hedy Lamarr.

Her time in Hollywood is not just spent in front of a camera. She has another secret. She's a scientist. Using Intel she gathered back in Austria, she creates groundbreaking inventions to help the war effort and ease the guilt she feels from leaving. The trouble is, no one will listen to her.

This book was sent to me by one of my friends. It isn't a book that I would normally pick up for myself and I was delighted to have something outside of my comfort zone to read. Typically World War II is an era I don't study very often or at all and generally stay away from the military type books. I love, however books that talk about the people during a conflict. I love to see who they were, how they felt, and how they were affected.

I didn't know Hedy Lamarr before reading this book, however, while reading The Only Woman in the room, I found my self searching Google for her movies and to learn more about her life. This book only covers her life from a naive 19 year old to the start of America's involvement in WWII. Throughout the book it is clear Hedy is smart and I suppose that is why I had a hard time understanding why she put up with the atrocities brought upon her by Fritz Mandl her husband. It angered me to see her go through those hardships. Her situation was obviously fueled by the political environment in Germany and Austria during the late 1930's and 40's and it seemed to have a control over her personal matters right from the start. I cheered though, when she finally executed her plan and left Fritz and Austria behind.

The Only Woman in the Room is a well written book about a woman that many may not know contributed greatly to America's ability to fight well in WWII. I love that it sheds light on a woman's contribution in the scientific world, even if it wasn't well received at first. She was a determined lady and well worth reading about.

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