Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite/The Glimmer Palace – Beatrice Colin

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.

Highly recommended.

NB:  This book is called The Glimmer Palace in America.

15 replies on “The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite/The Glimmer Palace – Beatrice Colin”

Oh I am so so so so pleased that you loved this. I absolutely 100% loved it too and have already bought three copies for other people. I have to say at the moment as it stands it is undoubtedly my favourite book of the year so far… but then we are only in March!

This was a great book, but the historical facts towards the end let it down a bit, so I think The Hunger Games and Blindness have beaten this into my third favourtite read of the year so far.

I’ve seen this one around a lot – the cover is gorgeous! Now I know that the content is just as good I think I will have to pick it up. Thanks for the great review.

Thanks for this recommendation – based on the cover I probably would never have read it, but now I’ll be looking for it.

I just finished it, like five minutes ago. I agree a bit with comments about the end of the book seeming disconnected from the beginning, however on the whole it was a very enjoyable read. I had to refresh my WWI history!

I completely agree with your review. I’m actually reading it now (on audio) and I’m pretty close to finishing. I see what you mean by the hurried ending. However I also agree that that fact should not stop anyone from reading the book because it is excellent!!! The reason I found your review was because I was googling it. I wanted to see pictures of that time period because the book gave me that much of a desire to see more. I think we all want to see what Lilly ‘really’ looks like. But I guess she’ll just have to live in our imaginations.

I read another review that said the author wasn’t sure what she wanted us to think of Lilly… and I think that’s true and not neccesarily a bad thing. I think the author wanted us to feel the separation that Lilly felt. By feeling a separation from the character we grwo to love as she starts to become famous we feel how she felt every time she lost someone. I think it was intended.

Excellent book. I also recommend it on audio. The woman who narrates is just superb!

Ciara, Sorry I can’t help you with pictures of the time period, but I think that shows how powerful this book is – anything that makes you want to research a subject more can only be a good thing.

I’m glad to hear this one works on audio – I’ll remember to recommend it in that format too 🙂

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