Only Woman in the Room (Benedict)

The Only Woman in the Room 
Marie Benedict, 2019
272 pp.

She possessed a stunning beauty. She also possessed a stunning mind. Could the world handle both?

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, understanding 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 knew a few secrets about the enemy. She had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis… if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
AKA—Heather Terrell
Birth—ca. 1968-69
Raised—Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—B.A., Boston College; J.D., Boston University
Currently—lives in Sewickley, Pennsylvania

Marie Benedict, AKA Heather Terrell, writes both adult and young adult fiction. She is perhaps best known as Marie Benedict for her works of historical fiction: The Only Woman in the Room (2019), Carnegie's Maid (2018), and The Other Einstein (2016).

As Heather Terrell, she has written Brigid of Kildare (2010, based on the medieval life of Ireland's St. Brigid) and two suspense novels, The Map Thief (2008) and The Chrysalis (2007).

Her young adult books are also under Heather Terrell: the Books of Eva series (Relic, Boundary, and Chronicle), as well as the Fallen Angel series (Fallen Angel and Eternity).

Benedict/Terrill has been drawn to stories of strong women, especially unsung heroines, both real and fictional. A book lover from childhood, it was a gift from her aunt that sparked her imagination—Marion Zimmerman Bradley's tale about the women of the Arthurian legend, The Mists of Avalon. As she told Book Reporter:

This book opened my eyes to the hidden voices and truths lurking in history and legend—particularly the buried histories of women—and set me on an admittedly circuitous path toward a life of uncovering those unknown stories and memorializing them through fiction.

Before becoming an author Benedict/Terrill practiced law in New York City. She received her B.A. from Boston College and her J.D. from Boston University. She met her husband in 2002 while standing in the customs line after landing in Hong Kong. The two were married in 2002 and have since moved to  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they live with their children. (Adapted from various online sources.)

Book Reviews
[R]ousing historical novel…. Benedict paints a shining portrait of a complicated woman who knows the astonishing power of her beauty but longs to be recognized for her sharp intellect. Readers will be enthralled.
Publishers Weekly

Relevant today, especially women's worth in a man's world… a worthy read about this gorgeous and talented woman.
New York Journal of Books

[A] compelling fictionalized biography pays tribute to the overlooked scientific contributions and the hidden depths of a stunning beauty and beloved movie star.

One of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen, Hedy Lamarr also designed a secret weapon against Nazi Germany.… A captivating story of a complicated woman blazing new trails.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM … then take off on your own:

1. Talk about Hedy's marriage to Friedrich Mandl. Was there any indication beforehand of his jealous and violent nature, any clues that might have warned Hedy off? What were the familial and political pressures that convinced Hedy, merely a teenager, to marry a man much older than she?

2. Once in America, how did Hedy's grief and guilt inspire her to turn to scientific investigation? How had her father helped prepare her for the rigors of science?

3. Are you able to grasp the basics of frequency-hopping, as well as its potential boon to the war effort? Does the author do an a good job explaining the science?

4. Talk about the era's view of women. How did Hedy react to the misogyny, prejudice, even humiliation that she faced in her attempt to interest the military in her invention. Might her beauty and fame as a "mere" film star have made it even more difficult for her to have her invention taken seriously?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: Do a bit of research into other women in history who faced similar barriers in their attempts to penetrate the male domains of science and technology. Consider the plight of the women of color at Nasa in the 1950s (Hidden Figures); or Grete Hermann, who in the 1930s found a flaw in the great mathematician John von Neumann's proof for quantum physics yet whose finding was ignored. Consider Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who in 1912 devised the method of calculating the distances of stars yet was prohibited, as a female, from operating the Harvard Observatory's telescopes. Her vital contribution to astronomy, of course, went unrecognized. Also, consider Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who, along with her husband William, pioneered modern-day cryptology, playing a major role in winning World War II. Her work went unrecognized for decades.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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