The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin
|The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Price|
|Summary: The vibrant character of Lilly Aphrodite illuminates the pages of this tale of a valiant orphan and her struggles to survive and find love in Berlin, in a novel spanning the first three decades of the 20th century. If you enjoy historical novels and film history, you'll find this book very readable.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: January 2009|
|Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd|
Do you love Jane Eyre? Is your favourite part the early chapters, when Jane suffers with the other orphans in Lowood? If so, you'll love the opening chapters of The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite.
While the setting is Berlin in the early years of the 20th century, not Yorkshire in the 19th, Lilly has much in common with Jane, which makes her a very engaging heroine. She is quiet, stubborn, obsessive and brave. She rails against inequality and has an indomitable spirit – even when tossed into the air by a car and her few possessions scattered to the winds. Beatrice Colin has succeeded in bringing to life a vibrant, living, breathing character, whose trials and tribulations have the reader in her thrall.
We follow Lilly's progress from her birth, the death of her Bohemian parents in a jealousy shooting, her temporary, unsatisfactory adoption, her upbringing in an orphanage, her struggles to survive during WW1 (aided by her dear friend and sometime prostitute Hanne), her brief wartime marriage and the perfidy of her sister-in-law, her job as a typist in a film studio which eventually gives Lilly stardom on the silent screen, her sojourn in America where she is labelled a Nazi, and her daring mission to save her true love.
Beatrice Colin's writing is colourful, convincing and lush with period detail. She creates a real feeling this period in Berlin with its tingle-tangle bars, hyper-inflation, decadence, desperation and the struggle to survive. This novel is definitely a stylish page-turner, with each chapter prefaced by a period photograph and insights into the German silent film industry. This sometimes didn't quite work for me, as I was longing to find out what happened to Lilly, but these sections are nevertheless interesting. Another quibble I have is that, despite the heavy emphasis on the film industry at the start of each chapter, Lilly’s screen career doesn't commence until p284, nearly three-quarters of the way through the book, and in many ways is less interesting than her earlier, valiant struggles. Her subsequent rise to fame I felt was a little rushed, as was the eventual denouement, though it's undoubtedly shocking.
It's almost as if Lilly, the sultry, little scene-stealer that she is, ran off with Colin's story, and then the author remembered that Lilly was meant to be a silent film star and squished that section into the last hundred or so pages. It feels a little uneven and rushed in the final chapters.
Overall, however, Colin has managed to entertain, amuse and inform in this her debut novel. Lilly is a character you'll remember long after you've closed the pages of this novel.
If you enjoy novels set in this period, you can't do better than The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, which has a similarly memorable heroine, although she won't make you smile and cheer like Lilly.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin at Amazon.com.
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin is in the Richard and Judy Shortlist 2009.
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