I’ve just finished reading this and here it is – a serious contender for my Book of The Year. Set in Berlin and spanning from the start of the twentieth century to the build up of World War II this is a big achievement of a book. It is superbly written. The title character is vibrant and captivates the reader from the outset when she is a little girl in an orphanage. There are also great characterisations in the supporting cast, Lilly’s friend Henne, whose choices send her down a very different path once the orphanage is no longer there for them; Sister August, the nun Lilly is so desperate to please; Eva, the radical lesbian and her brother Stefan and Ilya, the Russian film director who sees Lilly’s potential.
This is very much Lilly’s story and I do not want to give too much away. It is also the tale of rising above the hardships of a country battered by the decisions of its leaders. It is also a depiction of the developing film industry. Each chaper begins with a film-related vignette, which gives a sense of what is happening in German cinema and Lilly’s role in that does not become clear until a good way into the novel. I found this a rich, rewarding read.
Berlin has authenticity and functions as a character in the book, one, which in the first half of the century is in continual change. It’s a vast metropolis to the impoverished orphan; a place to starve or survive during the Great War; a place of potential demanding to be conquered by its citizens between the wars but also harbouring a bitterness which becomes all too evident when Hitler begins his rise to power. This is a book that ticks all the boxes for me in terms of characterisation, plot, structure and achievement. Expect to see it feature in my Best Books I’ve Read This Year Countdown at the end of the year and this book has just been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read since publication. Shame on me! Beatrice Colin is a writer and journalist based in Glasgow. Since the publication of this book she has written “The Songwriter”, a Jazz age novel which is being added to my To Be Read list.
The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite is published by John Murray