Disclosure: I won this book from Goodreads! This did not influence my review.
I’ve been trying to catch up on C.W. Gortner’s backlist, but I keep getting captured by his new releases (Mademoiselle Chanel and The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia). His latest offering is Marlene, on sale May 24. I’m thrilled to have won a review copy through Goodreads.
Gortner consistently provides his fans with well-researched, engaging, fictional historical biographies of larger-than-life women who defy convention to make their own way in the world.
Marlene is a born performer. It takes her a while to find her niche, starting off as a musician at her mother’s instigation, but moving on to singing and dancing in cabarets (in the wild, unrestrained days of the Weimar Republic), while taking classes in acting. Marlene is also a champion networker. Through friends and connections, she is introduced to two men who will define her future: her husband, Rudi Sieber and her first serious director, Josef von Sternberg. With von Sternberg she makes The Blue Angel, a movie that catapults her to stardom. With Rudi, she finds a husband who permits her the freedom to move about at will, indulging her passions and working her way up the movie-making ladder.
The success of The Blue Angel attracts the attention of Hollywood, and Marlene moves to the U.S. during the lead-in to WWII. There she makes her home throughout the war. Marlene is appalled by what is happening in and to Germany. Eventually needing to take a public stand, she becomes a performer for the USO, venturing into dangerous, war-torn countrysides to entertain the troops.
Marlene brings to life this fascinating, bold, determined woman as well as putting a spotlight on life in Berlin between the wars.