Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin
Published in the UK by John Murray in 2008.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Eyes and WorldReads: Scotland

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : from £7.96 (PB)
Waterstones : from £7.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $0.93 / £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'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 double murder, 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 splendour 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.'

Like Midnight's Children, Lilly is born at the beginning of a new era - in her case the beginning of the 20th century. Through her eyes, we see the desperate poverty suffered by many people in Germany in the period from 1900 until the end of the Second World War. Another of my recent reads, Life After Life, touched upon this era and I was interested to learn more about it.

Orphaned very young, Lilly grows up in an orphanage under the care of her beloved Sister August, a Catholic nun. Befriended by an older girl, Hanne, Lilly is encouraged to climb the walls at night, selling roses in seedy bars before she is even ten years old. Hanne is the only other person who does continuously return to Lilly's life, whereas practically everyone else leaves her or she leaves them behind. Despite eventual good fortune, which is revealed through intriguing flash forwards before each chapter, this theme of abandonment and loneliness runs throughout the book and must have been the norm in a time that encompassed not only the two World Wars, but also the Spanish flu epidemic and a civil war, and the complete wiping out of the German currency caused by First World War reparation payments. Although the Nazi Party's actions will always be horrific, novels such as Lilly Aphrodite do allow some understanding of how a people could find themselves choosing such a path.

Beatrice Colin's research, inspired apparently by a great-aunt, was obviously thorough and her efforts pay off. Her prose brings Berlin alive and it is easy to believe in the characters she creates. I love the vivacity of her writing and will certainly be looking out for more based on the strength of Lilly Aphrodite.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Beatrice Colin / Historical fiction / Books from Scotland

1 comment:

  1. I think it's interesting to show the Nazi perspective and how people find themselves on that path. Because while we are quick to judge, there has to be their own reasons and motivations for choosing that path of life as well.