Thursday, May 26, 2016

G715 Book Review of Marlene by C.W. Gortner

Name of Book: Marlene

Author: C.W. Gortner

ISBN: 978-0-06-240606-4

Publisher: William Morrow

Type of book: 1914-1946, Marlene Dietrich, WWI, WWII, Hollywood, defiance, Nazism, California, USA, movie star, jobs, Great Depression, movies, unconventional, Berlin, unconventional life and lifestyle

Year it was published: 2016


A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich, from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood—a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.

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.


A lot of characters played big roles in the book, but the most important character is Marlene Dietrich. Marlene is best described as determined, defiant, a bit selfish when it comes to her personal life, unconventional and someone who doesn't discriminate between people. I feel as if Marlene eclipses other characters, or that the characters play a very secondary role to her. Few other important characters include her mother, Mutti, who is obsessed with cleaning and has a lot of pride in her ancestry and she is also conservative in beliefs. Von Sternberg is a director that collaborates with Marlene and both seem to have an interesting relationship of creator and muse with one another. Rudi is Marlene's "husband" who desires a conservative lifestyle of sorts while Marlene desires freedom and to not be tied down.


Live life as much as possible


The story is in the first person narrative from Marlene's point of view and its from 1914 up until 1946. I do think that some of the dialogue seems to be a bit cliched but its easy to ignore it when one gets caught up in Marlene's life of glamour and dark side of Hollywood. I was also surprised to learn that Marlene, even in Germany, supported Jewish artistic works and that after the infamous night she even went shopping at Jewish stores with her daughter! Also as well, Marlene really gives the new meaning to hedonism and she is everything but conventional.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

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CW GortnerAbout C. W. Gortner

A former fashion executive, C. W. Gortner is a lifelong admirer of Coco Chanel. His passion for writing led him to give up fashion, and his many historical novels have been bestsellers, published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.
Find out more about C.W. Gortner at his website and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


I don't know anything about Marlene, much less her name or her origins thus it was a true delight to receive this novel and get to know a movie star that is best described as fervent and delightful and I do hope that in real life she was passionate about thumbing her nose at Hitler and Germany. The author clearly shows his passion for Marlene because from the very first page and very first sentence of the book, I found myself seduced and as I went deeper and deeper, all I wanted to do is to keep on reading Marlene until the very last page. What I also enjoyed is that the character and writing style do not resemble Mademoiselle Chanel. It feel as if C.W. Gortner taps into these women's spirits and he is able to sculpt them to life with words.

This was received as a surprise by the publishing company

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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