Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colin

In the first few minutes of the year 1900 Lilly Nelly Aphrodite is born in Berlin, Germany. Her mother is a volatile, unmarried cabaret performer. By the time Lilly is two her parents are dead and she is placed in an orphanage where she will remain until she is in her early teens. Lily does not make friends easily and it is not until the age of about twelve when she makes the one friend who will remain a part of her life in the future, Hanne Schmidt.

Hanne is a new arrival at the orphanage and is a couple of years older than Lilly. She shows Lilly the seedy world of nighttime Berlin, home to cheap cabaret bars called "Tingle-Tangles". The girls begin sneaking out of the orphanage at night to sell flowers in the clubs. When the orphanage is suddenly shut down shortly thereafter, Hanne deserts Lilly and disappears.

As the build-up to World War I begins, Lilly tries to make her way in the world. She finds a job as a maid for a difficult Countess but it is not long before she is assaulted by the husband and must eventually leave. She encounters Hanne again as the deprivations that the war brings begin to set in.

The necessities of life become scarce during the war and especially in it's aftermath, so the residents of Berlin throw themselves into the seedy nightlife of cabaret bars & cinemas. Any escape is preferable to the misery of daily life. It is at a cinema that Lilly meets Ilya Yurasov, a Russian who came to Berlin after the war and plays piano at the theater. He falls in love with Lilly and, with his contacts in the film industry, gets her a job typing film scripts.

From the typing pool, Lilly is discovered. She begins to appear in movies and is an immediate success. But success does not bring the happiness that she thought it would and she is not able to enjoy her new life.

I found this book difficult to get through. The author did a wonderful job with the historical setting of Berlin from 1900-1934, from the glitz and glamour to the starvation and despair. Unfortunately the characters were not very likable. They consistently made poor choices that contributed to their misery and kept them in the bad situations that they found themselves in. It made for a very dark, gritty, depressing novel. I'm sure that this was the author's intent, not all stories have happy endings, after all. But I did not enjoy it, though it was well written and the story was interesting.

The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colin; published by Riverhead Books; ISBN 9781594489853

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The Glimmer Palace

2 comments:

tashiana said...

i'm sorry you didnt like it
i doubt i would either
i just don't like books that end in a depressing way
i like that it's about friendship live and WWI though
i love reading about the world wars

Becca said...

Sounds bleak. I can handle a book that doesn’t have a happy ending but if you don’t like any of the characters it’s hard for me to get interested in the book. That’s unfortunate because it is probably a very interesting time to read about.

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.