The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is one of the best books I have read this year. The blurb on the back cover describes a very different book to the one it actually contains. I’m not very interested in the film industry, and the life of an orphaned cabaret dancer doesn’t sound like a great basis for a novel, but luckily the book bears little resemblance to it’s description.
The book is set in Berlin during the early part of the twentieth century. The central character, Lilly, is brought up in an orphanage, and faces many hardships. When the orphanage closes, Lilly is thrown onto the streets, and has to learn to live independently. WWI plays a big part in the story line. Lilly has to cope with food shortages, disease and death. The suffering of the German people is described vividly, but sensitively. Lilly is one of the best characters I have come across in a while. She is flawed, but her strength shines though – I loved her! By coincidence I am also reading Gone With the Wind at the moment, and noticed a lot of similarities between Lilly and Scarlett O’Hara. I’d love to ask the author if this was just coincidence!
It is very well researched, and I learnt a lot about German history. My only criticism is that the historical facts became too densely packed towards the end. There was a point when I began to wonder if the book was non-fiction, and actually went to check! For three-quarters of the book it was a rich, well written, novel about one woman’s struggle against adversity, but the last part of the book was a bit disappointing, as Lilly’s character seemed to get drowned in historical facts, and the famous people began to dominate the plot. This is only a very minor criticism though, so please do not let it stop you from reading this book.
The book was well paced, informative, and entertaining, and I agree with Simon – the writing style is very reminiscent of Sarah Waters. I’m sure that anyone who loves Sarah Water’s books will love this one too.
NB: This book is called The Glimmer Palace in America.