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The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite

Historical Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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Reviewed on Richard & Judy's Book Club 2009 on Wednesday 11 March.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in cinema and especially the German cinema of the 1920’s and 30’s. Following the story of an orphaned child as she struggles to grow up, hoping for a better life and a dream of becoming a movie star, we are shown an hypnotic and intriguing world full of glamour as well as seediness. Great historical fiction, you will be transported back in time.


The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

This is a rich, romantic historical novel showcasing the glamour, spectacle and theatrical energy of the Weimar Republic. As the clock chimed the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite took her first breath. Born to a cabaret dancer and soon orphaned in a scandalous murder-suicide, Lilly finds refuge at a Catholic orphanage, coming under the wing of the, at times, severe Sister August, the first in a string of lost loves.

There she meets Hanne Schmidt, a teen prostitute, and forms a bond that will last them through tumultuous love affairs, disastrous marriages, and destitution during the First World War and the subsequent economic collapse. As the century progresses, Lilly and Hanne move from the tawdry glamour of the tingle-tangle nightclubs to the shadow world of health films before Lilly finds success and stardom in the new medium of motion pictures and ultimately falls in love with a man whose fate could cost her everything she has worked for or help her discover her true self. Gripping and darkly seductive, "The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite" showcases all the glitter and splendor of the brief heyday of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hollywood to its golden age.

As it foreshadows the horrors of the Second World War, the novel asks what price is paid when identity becomes unfixed and the social order is upended.


'A sparkling array of Germany's most flamboyant characters ... intelligent, bold and passionate, this is a beautifully written book' * Good Book Guide * 'Full of suspense, this is an all-feeling novel, seductively and dramatically told' * Daily Mail * 'This absorbing read is both well researched and plushly written' * Guardian * 'A cartload of tingle-tangle fun' * Bookmunch * 'This gripping and darkly seductive novel showcases the glitter and darkness of the Weimar Republic' * Western Daily Press * 'Decadent, tantalising' * Axis Magazine * 'A compelling story well told' * Sun Herald (Australia) * There are few characters as beguiling as the incomparable Tiny Lil. And Colin tells her riveting story--and the enthralling story of pre-war Berlin--breathlessly and triumphantly. * Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country * Written with intelligence and shimmer, [The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite] transports the reader to Berlin in the first part of the twentieth century. Colin's heroine, Lilly Aphrodite, is as rich, alive, and dangerous as the city she inhabits; and as the novel progresses, Berlin's history becomes her own. * David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife * As moving as it is smart, this tough-minded extravaganza had me from page one . . . a dazzling tale of survival in the urban wilderness * Emma Donoghue, author of the bestselling SLAMMERKIN * Deftly captures the era's sense of frenzied invention and seductive promise. Born on New Year's Eve in 1899, Lilly is the incarnation of this toxic mix of glitter and despair. Over the course of nearly half a century, as troops parade through Berlin and bread lines erupt into riots, she is transformed, almost accidentally, from Tiny Lil, the unwanted baby, to Lidi, one of Germany's most celebrated film stars . . . Colin . . . writes with a supple, whimsical charm. [The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is] absorbing in its . . . authenticity * New York Times Book Review * 'A big, plush velvet cushion of a book' * The List * 'Bold, solid and clever' * Herald * 'An exceptional novel . . . Colin is an entertaining storyteller' * Sunday Herald * 'Colin's descriptions of Berlin are as vibrant and alive as Lilly and the rich cast of characters around her' * Scotland on Sunday * 'Intricately plotted and filled with memorable characters, Beatrice Colin's gorgeous novel is a lush delight that perfectly captures the spirit of Berlin ... compelling' * The Gloss * 'A transfixing concerto of intrigue, passion, desperation, intrigue, love, heroism and tragedy' * Easy Living * 'The storytelling is masterful and the language magical' * Sunday Times * 'The novel is full of atmosphere...very convincing

excellent characterisation...the whole story resonates with life. I Loved it


If your book club wants an unusual story with plenty to discuss, then this is the book for them' * New Books * 'Huge, beautiful 2008 novel...there's confidence in its scope and ambition that's very rare indeed in debut novels' * The List *'

About the Author

Beatrice Colin was born in London and raised in Scotland. She has worked as a freelance journalist, writing for publications including The Guardian, and a playwright, writing radio plays for the BBC. She lives in Glasgow.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th January 2009


Beatrice Colin

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John Murray General Publishing Division


416 pages


Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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