The Only Woman in the Room
February 2019 Indie Next List
— Kristin Pidgeon, Riverstone Books, Pittsburgh, PA
View the List
Winter 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
— Mary O'Malley, Anderson's Bookshop (La Grange), La Grange, IL
View the List
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER
Bestselling author Marie Benedict reveals the story of a brilliant woman scientist only remembered for her beauty.
Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.
But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis and revolutionize modern communication...if anyone would listen to her.
A powerful book based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece that celebrates the many women in science that history has overlooked.
Also by Marie Benedict:
The Other Einstein
Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781492666899, 336pp.
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. The Only Woman in the Room opens in Austria at a pivotal time in the years leading up to World War II. How familiar were you with the events of this era, particularly the European political developments and the relationship of Austria with Italy, Germany, and its other neighbors? Did you learn anything new about this period in history?
2. Did you find yourself becoming angry by Fritz’s treatment of Hedy and her decision to stay in the marriage for so long? Would you have felt as bound to the promise to her father—that she will use Fritz as a shield and stay with him unless she has no other choice—as she did? How did this sense of duty motivate her decisions and actions at this stage? What did you think about her mother’s views on the marital vow?
3. What are some of the differences between the life of Hedy the movie star and public figure and Hedy the scientist and private person? How does the theme of wearing masks appear throughout the novel? Do you feel this divide between women’s exterior and interior lives exists today?
4. What was your reaction to learning that Hedy, an actress who was largely self-taught in the sciences, was responsible, in part, for an invention that ultimately formed the basis for cell-phone technology? Do you think our perceptions might still be unconsciously affected by lingering preconceptions from Hedy’s day? How did her sense of duty and responsibility motivate her to create her invention?
5. The title of the novel is subject to several interpretations. What meanings can you glean from the title, and how did your understanding of the meaning of The Only Woman in the Room change from the beginning of the novel, to the end, if at all?
6. How might Hedy have symbolic importance in our time? Do you think it is important to uncover the voices and stories of historical women, and if so, why?