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Book 12: The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin


UK Cover
Book 12: The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite (US Title: The Glimmer Palace)
Author: Beatrice Colin, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction. Germany 1900-1930s. GLBT themes
Other Details: Paperback. 404 pages.

Born as the clocks chimed in the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite is the illegitimate, soon orphaned, daughter of a cabaret performer and the wayward son of a Bavarian nobleman. After a brief, unsuccessful adoption, she finds refuge in a Catholic orphanage where she eventually makes the first in a string of friendships that will determine the direction of her life. Fellow orphan Hanne takes Lilly beyond the confines of the orphanage, introducing her to the seedy glamour of Berlin’s notorious night life. Lilly's journey takes her from urchin to maid, teenage war bride, tingle-tangle bargirl, model, and script typist, to her final transformation into one of Germany’s leading silent film stars and a partner in a love story that will span decades and continents.


US Cover
This was another excellent work of historical fiction, mainly focused on Berlin during the first third of the twentieth century. Although the events preceding, during and following the Great War are in evidence, the focus is not on the Front but upon those left behind in Berlin, suffering horrific shortages during the war. This period is followed by the decadent glamour of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism. The author prefaces each chapter with a photo illustration and passages from works on Germany's film industry of the period. I found that these reminded me throughout that Lilly would one day be a part of that industry. Colin's universal narrator also at times moves ahead in time to chronicle the ultimate fate of some of her characters as well as that of buildings and even the occasional object. This also was a powerful reminder of the approaching Second World War.

The prose here was very rich and evocative whether dealing with the stark reality of Lilly's early years or the heady glamour of her later life. It was obviously meticulously researched and the author does provide end notes with some of her major sources.

A Conversation with Beatrice Colin - pdf document in which she discusses the genesis of the novel and her characters' interaction with real-life events.
Tags: glbt, historical fiction, richard and judy/channel 4 book club
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