5 reviews

The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel
by Marie Benedict

Published: 2019-01-08
Hardcover : 272 pages
48 members reading this now
222 clubs reading this now
20 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 5 of 5 members

The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller!

She possessed a stunning beauty. She also possessed a stunning mind. Could the world handle both?

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything ...

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The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller!

She possessed a stunning beauty. She also possessed a stunning mind. Could the world handle both?

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis...if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.

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Discussion Questions

1. As The Only Woman in the Room opens, Hedy’s father expresses concern for his daughter’s welfare—for all Jewish people, really—in the wake of Hitler’s desire to annex their home country, Austria, to the overtly anti-Semitic Germany. Hedy views this as a problem faced by the Ostjuden, the nonconforming Eastern Jewish people, but not the fully assimilated Viennese Jews like her and her family. Did her initial reaction surprise you, and if so, do you think modern-day readers would find her response disconcerting thanks to the benefit of hindsight? How do you think you might have acted in this time period?

2. As a very young woman, Hedy marries one of the richest men in Austria, the munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl. How did you feel about her encounters with high-ranking Austrian, Italian, and even Nazi political figures as Mrs. Mandl? How did her beauty make her both noticed by these men and invisible to them? What impact do these experiences have on her later life?

3. When Hedy finally escapes from her troubling marriage to weapons manufacturer Fritz Mandl, she flees to London, where she secures an introduction to Louis B. Mayer of MGM
Studios, who is in Europe, in part, to scout European Jewish actors, writers, and directors who can no longer work due to the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. Although her circumstances
are somewhat different, Hedy gets swept up in the wave of Louis B. Mayer’s recruits, and she sails for Hollywood. Were you surprised at the large number of European refugees, many
of them Jewish, who became prominent Hollywood figures (although they were never permitted to admit their heritage)? What did you think about the process by which they assimilated
into American society?

4. Despite their conflicted relationship, Hedy struggles to bring her mother from war-torn
Austria to America and only finds success because of the connections garnered by her fame. What was your reaction to Hedy’s mother’s initial resistance to leaving? How knowledgeable were you about America’s immigration policies during World War II, and what are your views on them?

5. The book explores the inspiration behind Hedy’s invention, as well as the moment when the ideas converged to fashion the “secret communication system.” Please discuss the various events that may have served as catalysts for her invention. Has Hedy’s story caused you to wonder about the process of creation and the stories behind other innovations, particularly the roles that women may have played?

6. Would you be surprised to learn that Hedy’s groundbreaking invention became the basis, in part, for the creation of Wi-Fi technology? Please discuss the fact that her contribution to this world-changing innovation was largely lost—or ignored—for decades.

7. The title of the novel is subject to several interpretations. What meanings can you glean from the title, and how did your understanding of the meaning of The Only Woman in the Room?

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Laura J. (see profile) 03/15/24

This was a good quick read. I am also currently reading The gentleman in Moscow. The two stories take place at the same period of time . In the same region of our world . The only woman story tells a story... (read more)

by Janine M. (see profile) 03/02/24

by Chaula J. (see profile) 12/20/23

by marie r. (see profile) 11/15/23

by Annie T. (see profile) 10/05/23

by Mary B. (see profile) 09/18/23

by Leigh J. (see profile) 09/13/23

I really enjoyed the story. I learned things about Hedy Lamarr that I had never heard. I love the way Marie exposes the true stories of women who have not been recognized for their contribution to society.... (read more)

by Angie W. (see profile) 08/19/23

by Kelly J. (see profile) 07/12/23

I was expecting a fast paced thriller but this was more of a fictional biography. Interesting information but boring delivery.

by Marcia P. (see profile) 01/05/23

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