Raised in genteel poverty after the first World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, 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.
For the beautiful, desirous Lili Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.
But one day she will return to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.
An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.
Gortner gives readers the undeniable enigmatic Marlene Dietrich in all her glory reading more nonfiction than fiction. With certitude Gortner is a talented writer with a creative eye possessing a knack celebrating iconic women.
Marlene’s story is detailed and alluring. Nothing new brought to light for those familiar with the mysterious lady, although his emphasis on Dietrich’s aiding the allies during wartime by entertaining military personnel on the home front and abroad might be a revelation to readers. Her love affairs with both men and women were plenty. A public figure yet achingly private. Her childhood somewhat of a challenge, her relationship with her mother turbulent.
Marlene was a nonconformist, she lived her life her way without apology, excuses or regret, Marlene did not bend for the world despite societal expectations. A progressive woman in thought, choices and actions clearly ahead of her time.
I wasn’t a fan of the clunky sex scenes, awkwardly descriptive. I did appreciate the vivid atmospheric taste of Germany, its people and concerns of Hitler and pre/post WWII. Kudos for the thorough research, as always Gortner crafts a story of a woman of strength, independence holding on to her individuality. A man who understands women exploiting them in their individual exuberance.
About C.W. Gortner
Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.
He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit his website for more information.
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Expected publication: May 24th 2016 by William Morrow