Did you know some of the foundational science behind WiFi, Bluetooth, and other modern technology was developed by a Hollywood bombshell from the 1940’s?
During World War II, German subs were sinking passenger ships left and right. Most of us have heard of the Lusitania (from World War I), but German leadership obviously had even less regard for human life in World War II.
Enter Hedy Lamarr. An Austrian-born Jew, she was married at 19 to one of the wealthiest men in Austria…a man who made his fortune selling weapons and later allied with the Nazis. At this point, Hedy escaped and managed to reinvent herself in Hollywood.
With the tragic loss of civilian life weighing on her conscience, Hedy developed technology to assist Allied powers in taking out the German subs. The bastards in charge rejected it (basically because she was a woman, and what’s worse, a hot one), but obviously implemented the technology decades later. How many lives could have been saved if we’d listened sooner? And money-wise…Lamarr wasn’t paid a penny for her inventions, said to be worth around $30 billion today.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict tells Lamarr’s incredible story, bringing much-needed attention to a woman overlooked by history. All in all, it’s a wonderful book and I have nothing but praise for the author.
Getting into the finer details, the book focuses heavily on Lamarr’s backstory, beginning at age 19 when she meets her first husband. I devoured this part of the book.
My only complaint (if you could call it that) is that I wish there was MORE about her inventions and later life. After the high stakes and nuanced relationships in the first part of the book, the back half feels a tad “tell” rather than “show.”
I know the book is based on a real person and real events, so the author only has so much leeway with major plot points, but I also felt like it didn’t quite come “full circle.”
For instance, after being an abusive monster, Fritz kind of just disappears. In a schadenfreude-filled way, I kind of wanted him to reappear, and for her to give him one final kick in the teeth.
All in all, it was a wonderful book. I didn’t like it quite as much as The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, also by Marie Benedict, but it was definitely worth the time spent on it.