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I was lured to this book initially by the cover and that it was a book from the Richard and Judy's book club. I have read several of their recommendations and have enjoyed each one.
The book was admittedly one I wouldn't normally read but I ordered it from Amazon as it was roughly £5.99. I ordered several books at the time as I was leaving work for maternity leave; funnily enough this book is the only one I have made time to read.
I have thoughly enjoyed the story I think Beatrice Colin describes people, places and events in a way which makes it easy to get engrossed in the story. It's a kind of story that has you laughing at one point and crying the next.
It's also refreshing to read a book set during the First World War and even though the time period is nearly 100 years ago the story of strength of Lilly Aphrodite is one which you can relate to.
Searching the shelves of my local libary i stumbled upon The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite. I'd never read anything by Beatrice Colin before and must admit the only reason why i decided to read this book was simply because it had a sticker with Richard and Judy's Book club and a bar of Galaxy chocolate on the front cover, my mind immediatly went, Cup fo Tea, bar of Galaxy and i'll read a page, any excuse to eat chocolate i'm afraid. I wasn't expecting much from the book, i was in for a surprise when i found i could not put this book down.
Lilly Aphrodite is the illegitmate daughter of a Cabaret dancer, set in early 20th Century Berlin. Orphaned in a horrific double murder, young Lilly soon finds herself in a Catholic Orphanage under the care of Sister August, a somewhat stern nun.
Whilst in the orphanage she becomes friends with Hanne Schmidt, who opens Lilly's eyes to the glamourous world of Cabaret clubs and acting.
The book follows Lilly through her life of love, heartbreak, hardship and sorrow. It pulls you into a thought of "at last Lilly has found happiness" only for a twist to see her thrown backwards.
It's quite a hard read to begin with, but once you get into the book, you find it increasinly hard to put down, the many characters that Lilly meets through out her life and the struggle to grow up and survive in the face of harsh economical times keep the reader gripped and many will find themselves hoping for a happy ending for young Lilly.
All in all, it's a well written unexpected find for me, the book is filled with hope, love and tradgey and i would most definately recommend it to others, all i say is, give it a chance.
A friend bought this book, and as we usually swap books, I decided to give it a try. Having never read anything by Colin's before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but the storyline is surprisingly unusual!
Lilly Nelly Aphrodite is the daughter of a cabaret dancer, and born at the very start of the 20th Century. Her parents are the victims of a horrible double murder soon after, and given to a Catholic Orphanage. She's looked after by Sister August, a well meaning but very stubborn nun who wants Lilly to turn to a life of God.
Lilly meets plenty of interesting characters in the orphanage, the most influential of which being Hanne, a teenage prostitute. Lilly and Hanne grow up like sisters, experiencing lots of firsts together, and eventually being seduced by the glamour of nightclubs and acting. The book describes their struggle to grow up fast, and get themselves into a range of very small productions, mainly health films.
Lilly eventually achieves well deserved success, and as her friendship with Hanne struggles to cope with her new found work, she falls for a man she stars with. Whether motivated by loneliness or love, she soon finds herself completely in love with him, and risking her life, and new career, to be with him.
The book can be hard to get into, but is well worth reading. Set in twentieth century German, Lilly is a beautiful girl but any success she occurs is completely accidental, and at times her situation seems so bleak you wonder how she will ever cope.
It is very well written, and by the middle of the book you'll be rooting for Lilly and every other girl who finds herself in a similar situation. The book has a lot of surprises, and isn't anywhere near the cliched story I thought I'd be reading...infact, the ending is shocking and rather sad.
It's a compelling book, and one that has you holding your breath at some points, wondering what Lilly will do next, and how she will survive. I read it in days, and would recommend it to anyone!
This book came up on my Amazon recommendation list when I ordered Isherwood's 'Goodbye to Berlin' so I decided to buy it. At the time it cost me £4.76 for the paperback and the full recommended retail price is £7.99.
I chose this book simply because I loved the picture on the cover and the blurb made it sound really good, a bit like the film 'Cabaret', here's what it says:
"Decadent, tantalising Berlin in a Germany torn apart by war at the turn of the twentieth century...
The illegitimate, orphaned daughter of a cabaret dancer, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite's early life - and that of her only friend Hanne - is one of reinvention. Transformed from maid to war bride via tingle-tangle nightclub girl, she lands in the heart of the glamorous motion picture world and quickly becomes one of Germany's leading silent film stars. But when she falls in love with a Russian director, she has no idea that the affair will span decades, cross continents and may ultimately cost her everything."
You should really ignore this blurb as it really doesn't describe the book very well. About half of the book is about Lilly growing up in an orphanage, and it's the stereotypical orphan story, and only towards the end do we hear about her film career and the love affair. She only has a 'luminous' life at the end!
There's lots of real history (about the war and about films) thrown into the book but I found these didn't really help the story along very much and they just bored me. However, the bits that did interest me were the photos and brief real-life film stories (a paragraph or two) at the beginning of each chapter.
Even though I often felt sympathy for Lilly's situation, I didn't really care much about the character. I'm not sure why, maybe it was because Colin didn't describe how Lilly was feeling effectively. Lilly didn't ever feel sorry for herself either so maybe that's another reason why; she just didn't need my pity.
As I didn't enjoy this book very much it took me twice as long to read it as it should've done because I'd often find 'better' things to do other than read it!
The only part I thought was really well done was the ending, I can't say too much in case it spoils it for you (not that I recommend you read it!) but it was a bit of a surprise. If the rest of the book had been as well written as the ending then it would've been more exciting!
Overall, I can see how this book might appeal to some people but it definitely wasn't for me. I'm only giving this book 2 out of 5 stars because it bored me, I didn't really care about the characters and it certainly is nothing like the blurb!
I purchased this book purely by chance, it was one of my recommended titles on Amazon and I thought the front cover looked really interesting. This is also a book recommended by the Richard and Judy Book Club.
This book is also published by another publisher and under a different name (Glimmer Palace) which I found out when I ordered it from Amazon thinking it was another book by Beatrice Colin, but when I started reading it, I had some strong feelings of deja vu. Just a little warning!
The book follows the a young girl called Lilly Nelly Aphrodite who is in an orphanage in Berlin, we stay with her throughout her life and through all the struggles she has to fight through. The story starts in pre-war Germany and we learn all about the the wars and the effect it had on Germany.
Lilly meets many people and is involved in many professions in an attempt to survive in Germany. It's a really interesting story; full of ups and downs, love and heartbreak, life and death.
At the start of each chapter, there are black and white postcards showing different things such as movie stars from the past and places in Germany. I really enjoyed these and thought it really added to the book. It helped take you back to that period in time and made you think about these people's lives and what they had to go through. It added to the whole atmosphere of the book.
At the back of the book is an index of the pictures telling you what they are, which is really interesting to find out.
Also at the start of each chapter was a little excerpt to do with the pictures. It wasn't really related to the story, but it gave an insight into the past world and people's lives.
Lilly - She is the main character in the book, the person's life we're following. A lot of tragedies happen to her, but she never really lets it get her down. Her attitude to life feels to me as though it represents a lot of people's during the wars. Just to get on with life and deal with things as they come and do whatever you can to stay afloat. I found her quite easy to relate to, especially because we knew her from such a young age. It was amazing to see her grow from a young, immature child to a grown-up woman who is able to look after her.
Hanne - She is Lilly's best friend who seems to drift in and out her life. To me, she seemed quite a bad influence although she did give Lilly ideas on how to get bye when times were tough but then she also leaves her in the lurch often. She seems selfish and like a bit of a hussy!
Other characters include Eva - a lesbian who manipulates people to her liking, Stefan - Lilly's first love, Ilya - Lilly's true love.
There are many other characters in the book that are often only have a fleeting appearance in the book. This can often seem pointless, but I think they represent the fragility of life back in those times - how easy it was to see someone one day and the next day for them to be gone.
It is written in third person, which enables the reader to see all aspects of Lilly's life. Even though there is little dialogue, we're still able to pick up on thoughts and emotions of the characters. Beatrice Colin is able to make such a huge impact in a few sentences with her writing. It is so easy to get completely lost in this story, it's so beautiful but so tragic.
There is quite a lot of information about the wars and although I do know about the first and second world wars, I'd never seen it from the point of view of those who were under the rule of the Nazi party. It was really interesting to see how much it actually affected them. I never realised how horrible life actually was in Germany and I know that's such a naive, ignorant idea.
I think there is a good a balance between the actual story and the facts of life then. It helps you get more involved in the story to learn more about the different aspects of things such as the war and the film industry. I found it really interesting and I felt it helped me enjoy the book.
I also found there was a good balance between the different sections of her life. A good amount of pages was dedicated to each stage in her life and it moved easily from her childhood to her growing up.
The novel is based on things that actual happened, although all the characters, events and films are made up.
The book has 400 pages and costs £7.99. It's published by John Murray.
It's a great book and a real page turner. It's full of information that will shock you and events that'll break your heart. You find yourself getting taken back to the early 1900s and getting involved in life then. It's a truly amazing story and I would recommend it to everyone.
I just finished reading 'The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite' by Beatrice Colin so thought I'd review it here.
The front cover and title are quite tantalising I think so I picked it up on that alone. It wasn't really as explicit as I expected it to be but it was a better storyline than I expected so the two balanced each other out!
It's a 2009 paperback and I have never read anything by Beatrice Cole before so I went in with a totally open mind.
The story is set in Berlin at the turn of the 20th Century and follows the life of Lilly Nelly Aphrodite - surely someone with a name like that is destined for fortune and fame!
Lilly is an orphan and as her story unravells although a sad childhood at the orphanage, you never feel that she is sorry for herself.
She has a close friend from the orphamage 'Hanne' who betrays her trust many times but Lilly always forgives. There is also a strong bond between Lilly and the chief nun at the home 'Sister August' but for me that part of the book did not really reach a conclusion.
The books chapters hint throughout that she eventually becomes extremely rich and famous so you're turning the pages waiting for her to get her break in life, which eventually happens.
Each chapter has a picture postcard illustrations from the time, mainly arts and cinematic and they also begin with a bit of factual story telling about the times and what's happening. This helps to set the scene and gives more background information in line with the story.
It's really interesting to read a book set around the first world war but from the opposite side of the fence (ie Germany). To understand the poverty and the way the German Mark is devalued and the ruthlessness of their leaders is a perspective I've never really gone into before.
Lilly touches your heart with her determination to survive in life and has a few brief encounters with men as the book progresses. She falls for a Russian film Director (Ilya) who is her one true love but politics and his morals keep them apart for most of the time.
My favourite parts of the book was the 'rags to riches' tale and that Lilly is a believable character who is very modest about her looks and talent.
There wasn't much not to like apart from there was quite a bit of detail on the German film industry in the early 1900s which doesn't really interest me and the fact that my book fell apart on me halfway through (serves me right for reading in the bath) so I can't pass it on now as it's in bits.
There's a great twist at the end but I won't spoil it for those who want to read it. Suffice to say I found it a good read and would recommend it to fellow book-worms.
This is my first "grown up" book review - so please bear with me if the standard is not as you would like from a book review, but please give me any pointers you feel fit so that I can make future reviews better!
I bought this book as part of a BOGOF offer in WH Smith ahead of my holiday. I hadn't seen any review of it in the past, so was attracted by the title alone. Well, almost alone - the book had the added "draw" of carrying the "Richard & Judy Book Club" sticker, as well as the BOGOF one....
This book is set in the first half of the 20th Century. Lilly is born as the century breaks, in Germany. She is the illegitimate baby to a troubled cabaret artiste, and finds herself orphaned at an early age.
Brought up until her teens in an orphanage run by a Nun who does her best to provide education and opportunity, but who is always thwarted by the attitudes and financial strings of others, life in the early 1900s doesn't run smoothly for Lilly.
Befriended by another orphan, Hanne, who has had more experience of life outside the orphanage, Lilly starts pushing her boundaries a little and exploring Berlin. Her eyes are opened as she is greeted by a grimy, sleazy world of bars and working girls.
When the orphanage is finally closed down, Lilly is on her own, and this book follows her life through the ups and downs of Berlin through two world wars. Life is never easy nor predicable for such a young person left alone in such a changing world.
Being the daughter of a cabaret artiste, you would expect there to be some sort of yearning to be in the spotlight, and you would be right - Lilly enters the world of entertainment, moving into the new and exciting world of silent movies via the less desirable "tingle tangle" clubs of Berlin. She meets colourful characters along the way - some she comes to love and trust, others that are perhaps not all they seem.
Lilly grows up quickly - you would expect nothing less of someone in this situation, and as you are reading the book, you get a real feel for how she matures. Her definition of "love" develops as she gets older, her idea of responsibility changes, her ability to adapt to the next major change, both in her personal life and in world affairs (remember, there are two world wars taking place in the course of this book) develop, and you really get to know Lilly as she moves through young adulthood.
Although Lilly is the main character in the book, there are others worthy of note:
- Sister August. The Nun in charge of the orphanage. She is given an impossible task but does it with as much enthusiasm as she can muster. She gives Lilly her first glimpse of determination and love. I feel that Sister August is a real role model for the young Lilly.
- Hanne. Remaining friends for life, Hanne leads a more "colourful" existance than Lilly, and needs Lilly to be the stabilising factor along the way. Fun, and frustration......a rollercoaster of a friendship, as many are!
Eva & Stefan - a brother and sister who took Lilly in when she needed help. Relationships are formed that are revisited throughout the book....some good, some bad - I won't give it away......
Ilya - a Russian film director. A working relationship develops into true love. But of course nothing is as simple as it seems.
The backdrop to this book is the world of silent movies, in particular in Europe. Each chapter begins with a postcard image or photograph representing an element of the film industry and Berlin at that time. It would be easy to skip past them, but take a moment before reading the next chapter to look at the postcards. They really do give you the ability to see some of the emotion of the time.
This book is set in the first half of the 20th Century, a time when Berlin was going through immense changes, and although this is obviously a theme and feature of the book, it does not require a great previous knowledge of European history of that time. The author, Beatrice Colin, has done well to provide her reader with enough description and information to enjoy the book without a history O level.......If, as I did, on the other hand, you have studied history of that area from that time, or have an existing enthusiasm for 20th Century history, you will read far more into this book as you draw on those history lessons from years gone by.
This book has everything that you would expect......solid characters, a changing mood, and a twist at the end. It is not a long book, only 400 pages long and is ideal as a holiday read, because once you get into it, you won't want to put it down! My only criticism really would be that the world of silent movies, and the massive changes going on in the world in those first few decades of the 20th century, are so vast, that any book such as this really only scratches the surface.....in some ways, you are left wanting more!
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite
Author - Beatrice Colin
published by John Murray - www.johnmurray.co.uk
Cover price £7.99 - check out Amazon to get it much cheaper or look for the offers in bookstores.
I'm quite a fan of the Richard and Judy Book club, and have read some fantastic books I probably wouldn't have had they not been one of their recommendations. Working my way through the 2009 list, I have just finished The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin.
The book tells the story of Lilly Nelly Aphrodite, illegitimate child to a cabaret dancer, born in Berlin at the turn of the twentieth century.
Quickly orphaned she is took in by Sister August at a catholic orphanage, where she meets Hanne who will become a life long friend.
We follow the struggles Lilly faces as she leaves the orphanage to go into domestic service, through the first world war and the subsequent post war years of the Weimer Republic. As circumstances work against her Lilly is forced to continually reinvent herself, for her own survival leading her from house maid to cocktail waitress, Munitions factory worker to star of the new silent movie industry with various periods of destitution and fortune along the way, as well as many loves gained and lost.
I have to say, I almost gave up on this book in the early stages. The first 80 or so pages focus on lilly's childhood in the orphanage, and while introducing us to the kind but misplaced Sister August, who young Lilly is in love with and Hanne, her life long friend, nothing much happens and it isn't particularly interesting. I appreciate it was setting the background for Lilly's life, but felt it could have been done in around half the pages. There seemed to be characters introduced and anecdotes told for seemingly no purpose. One such instance is when a photographer visits the orphanage when Lilly is 6. Lilly is asked to show the photographer out, but instead decides to take him and show him her cot. She then just shows him out. I can't really understand the purpose of this as it doesn't set Lilly up to be a flirt, for instance. Nor does he abuse her in anyway. She shows him, he say's 'oh' then she shows him out, end of.
However I did carry on with the book, hoping that it would get better and I am very pleased that I did. The story takes us on a remarkable journey through German history between the First world War, economic collapse and the rise of the Nazi Party. I don't know a lot about this period in history, but the author writes in such a way that the mood, suffering, poverty, frustration, anger, violence and hedonism of this age is almost tangible.
While the book is titled The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite, it's the people in and around Lilly's life who truly shine. Lilly herself is at times somewhat dull, being carried along from one tragedy to another, we often don't know Lilly's own emotions or feelings and can be difficult to relate to. However, the author seems to use Lilly as a vehicle to introduce the wonderful characters who slip in and out, and back into her life again.
Told in the third person throughout we really get to know the friends and loves in Lilly's life. Her friend Hanne is the one who shone the most for me. A wild industrious girl, tingle-tangle dancer, prostitute, gold digger, drug addict. She doesn't sound as if she possesses heartwarming qualities, but her vividness and spirit make her an incredibly interesting character and you can not help but empathise with her. Other characters such as Eva: the jealous and deceitful Communist in love with Lilly, Kurt: a violent brown shirt injured in the first world war, Ilya: the Russian film director and Lilly's tragic love, all possess great depth. Sometimes I wondered about the relevancy of some characters as they are introduced into Lilly's life and disappear just as quickly, but they are brought back or the story is tied up and all have their own significance.
I raced through the book from around page 80 and couldn't put it down. There isn't an awful lot of dialogue, however the author managed to capture feelings and moods with raw descriptive text. There is a lot of historical fact in the book, and I found this was wrote in a way to be informative and interesting, and never deviating or distracting from the story.
My one complaint, apart from the somewhat labourous beginning, would be towards the end. Obviously not wanting to give too much away, I feel the detail into the makings of Silent Movies became too factual and the characters where slightly lost in this part. Each chapter of the book begins with a snippet from a film script, scene from an actress, or a description of someone visiting the early German Cinema's. At first I couldn't really understand the point in these exerts, however I did come to appreciate them, giving me an insight into what was a revolutionary industry, which despite poverty, suffering and political unease captured the imagination of a nation.
Overall I enjoyed this book very much, after getting past the first couple of chapters. I feel not only was I entertained, but I learned a great deal about a period in history I have little understanding of and would like to learn more. The character development is fantastic, and even after finishing the book they have stayed with me. The ending is shocking, in a way that is unexpected. while a lot of loose ends are tied up, more questions are raised and left unanswered giving you something to ponder over for hours after.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as a genre, has a keen interest in this era of history or a passion for film making, particularly silent movies. If you can get past the first 80 pages, then I believe you are in for a treat.
~About The Author ~
Beatrice Colin was born in London and Lives in Scotland. she has previously worked as a freelance journalist and playwright for BBC radio. her inspiration for the book came from her German born aunt, who scorned her ignorance of this period in history. She lists a vast bibliography of books she took her research from at the back of the book and states that while much of her novel is based on fact, the characters, events and films are completely fictional.
The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin
Published in 2008 by John Murray (publishers)
paperback edition published in 2009
RRP £7.99 available from amazon.co.uk for under £4