About Marlene• 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.
About C. W. GortnerC. 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.
I enjoy historical fiction, especially historical fiction set during World War II. Marlene: A Novel of Marlene Dietrich is mesmerizing, partly due to the setting. Berlin during the 1930's was a decadent destination with cabarets that knew no limits. I don't want to rewrite what's in the book blurb, but I will say that I was shocked by Berlin's debauched subculture that shorty preceded the rise of the Third Reich. Obviously it would have been impossible for both cultures to have coexisted.
While reading this excellent novel I kept having to remind myself that this is a work of fiction. Told from Marlene's point of view, I feel as if she is narrating her story to me. I love Marlene's voice, and Gortner succeeds in convincing me that this story and all of its details and dialogue are "fact." Only the best historical fiction can achieve this, so kudos to Gortner! I got sucked into the story from the first chapter about elementary school, and I found the book very hard to put down all the way through until the book's end, the aftermath of the war in a destroyed Berlin.
Marlene is not like the other starlets of the Golden Era of film. She is gritty, political, altruistic, and brave. She is one of the first stars to sell war bonds. Her USO tour with Danny Thomas is long and fraught with danger, and I love how she records songs in both English and German used for propaganda. Her shock at finding out her sister and brother-in-law's connection to Bergen-Belsen is ironic compared to Marlene's outspoken denunciation of Hitler and the Third Reich. I found this section of the book so compelling that I did extra research and reading on my own because I wanted to know what actually happened to her in Germany after the war.
I enjoyed Marlene so much that I plan on reading more of Gortner's novels. I'm particularly interested in reading The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and Mademoiselle Chanel. I've already put them on reserve at my library!
Disclosure: I received a copy of Marlene from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Until next time...