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The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite [Paperback]

Beatrice Colin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Jan 2009

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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (8 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848540310
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848540316
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Beatrice Colin is a novelist based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her novel, The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite (John Murray) was published in the UK and in the US as The Glimmer Palace (Riverhead) in 2008. It was chosen By Richard and Judy's Book Club as one of their titles in 2009 and was nominated for a British Book Award. It was also short-listed for Scottish Art Council Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Award 2009.

Beatrice was born in London and moved to Scotland as a child. After graduating from the University of Glasgow, she worked as a journalist for the arts and features pages of publications including The Scotsman, Sunday Herald and The Guardian. Her first novel, Nude Untitled, (Toby Press, 2000) was short-listed for a Saltire Award. Her second, Disappearing Act (Toby Press, 2001) was published in the US. She has written six plays and dramatized three novels for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been broadcast and published in anthologies and literary magazines such as Ontario Review and The London Magazine.

Her new novel The Songwriter was reviewed in The List Magazine: 'Against a backdrop of jazz and prohibition, a cast of performers and glamorous aristos weave their way through these paranoid, war-stricken times. Colin, who once lived in New York herself, retraces the era with consummate period detail and beautifully flowing prose.'

In her spare time she enjoys poking around junk shops and playing the piano.

Product Description


'Huge, beautiful 2008 novel...there's confidence in its scope and ambition that's very rare indeed in debut novels' (The List)

'The novel is full of atmosphere...very convincing" "excellent characterisation...the whole story resonates with life. I Loved it" "Irresistible" "If your book club wants an unusual story with plenty to discuss, then this is the book for them' (New Books)

'The storytelling is masterful and the language magical' (Sunday Times)

'A transfixing concerto of intrigue, passion, desperation, intrigue, love, heroism and tragedy' (Easy Living)

'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)

'Colin's descriptions of Berlin are as vibrant and alive as Lilly and the rich cast of characters around her' (Scotland on Sunday)

'An exceptional novel . . . Colin is an entertaining storyteller' (Sunday Herald)

'Bold, solid and clever' (Herald)

'A big, plush velvet cushion of a book' (The List)

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)

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)

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)

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)

'A compelling story well told' (Sun Herald (Australia))

'Decadent, tantalising' (Axis Magazine)

'This gripping and darkly seductive novel showcases the glitter and darkness of the Weimar Republic' (Western Daily Press)

'A cartload of tingle-tangle fun' (Bookmunch)

'This absorbing read is both well researched and plushly written' (Guardian)

'Full of suspense, this is an all-feeling novel, seductively and dramatically told' (Daily Mail)

'A sparkling array of Germany's most flamboyant characters ... intelligent, bold and passionate, this is a beautifully written book' (Good Book Guide)

Book Description

A rich, romantic historical novel showcasing the glamour, spectacle and theatrical energy of the Weimar Republic

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lush & burlesque tale of survival! 30 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this after reading good things about it, and I am so happy I did. This is a wonderful story, filled with emotion, colour and poetic description of even the worst mentionalble fact. Filled to the rim with love, despair, friends and foes, it paints a different picture of the Berlin, and it's two devestating wars, than I knew before. And it has made me want to revisit, both the city and the book.

It is a rather simple story of a girl, orphaned at an early age, and her struggle to survive through childhood years, teen years and eventually growing up to be an incredible woman, and germany's most loved move star.
Written so beautifully you think you can actually smell it's sinful sweetness...

I just recomend it! Read it, enjoy it, savour it!
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bewitching must read 10 Feb 2009
By Read Me
The Luminous Life of lily Aphrodite starts with Lily's birth wrapped in blue material and something of a novelty. She quickly becomes orphaned however and lily's novelty fades as she becomes a child in the Berlin orphanage under the watchful eye of Sister August. Lily's only friend is feloow orphan Hanne and while she has too much experience of the outside world Lily has none, making them an unlikely pairing. Yet as the orphanage closes Lily must face the Berlin that lies beyond the orphanage walls and splitting up from Hanne Lily's real story begins. She quickly develops from a child into a young woman struggling to survive. As Berlin seems to race towards the First World War life revolves around Lily and then sweeps her along. While Lily seems to alway teeter between respectability and poverty, Hanne falls head first into the seedy side of life and the relationship between the two becomes that terrible mix of love and hate displayed by best friends.
Lily is a wonderful character who leads us through Berlin's interwar years, through starvation, inflation, depression and joy. Lily's life reflects that of the city - full of hope and joy then taken over by danger and destruction. Lily's salvation comes from a Russian film director Ilya, who sees her talent and beauty and makes her a great film star.
This is an amazing novel, depicting the German film world and Berlin's 'tingle-tangle' clubs through the experiences of a young woman just struggling to survive in the safest way possible. A book that has to be finished once started and while often sad it is always compelling.
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71 of 87 people found the following review helpful
This books displays the short but heady days of film making in the Weimar Republic and the climb of Hollywood into its golden age, all foreshadowed by the coming horrors of war. This is accomplished by following the life of Lilly Nelly Aphrodite, orphaned as a baby after both her parents are killed in a lovers quarrel. Her early years are spent in an orphanage and finds herself under the wing of stern Sister August. Here she befriends, Hanne Schmidt teen prostitute. The two woman form a sisterly bond that will last them through their lives from Germany's tawdry night clubs through failed marriages, Lilly's rise to movie stardom in silent films and her love affair with a man who could cost her everything. The Author does a wonderful job of breathing life into his characters and the time period. It was also obvious the author has done extensive research on his subject. I was fascinated to learn about the glamour days of German movie making after World War I through the rise of the Nazi's. German films of the 20's and early thirties were free from censorship and explored sexual themes including homosexuality. It was further interesting to learn how German film making eventually effected American Cinema. In the end however, this is the story of Lilly and the author is able to portray her rough and tumble life that never flounders in sentimentality. Highly recommended! For more excellent historical fiction about the movie industry I also recommend "Misfits Country" Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable brilliantly portrayed in there final movie rolls.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite What I Expected 29 Mar 2014
This book has been sitting on my TBR pile for ages and at long last I have got around to reading it. I must admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, but despite this I did find myself getting caught up in the story and quite enjoyed it.

The main character, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite, is born on New Year’s Eve, and takes her first breath at the beginning of 1900. So in one sense this is a tale of Lilly, but in another way it is a story of Germany. Lilly is more of a straight type of person and we see how she interacts and comes out of herself through the other characters and situations in this tale. As Lilly tries to make her way in the world we see for instance how her friend Hanne does as well. Eventually Lilly becomes a screen star in the silent era and then goes to America, but she does come back for a while to Germany, and Berlin.

Although Lilly is the main character others also do get quite a lot of attention, such as Lilly’s friend Hanne, and a few others. Whilst the main plot of the story trundles along we read of the effects in Germany, what with the First World War and the consequent aftermath for Germany, but also the political changes and the persecution of Jews. This does make for an interesting and well rounded read, but if you are looking for something a bit more on the culture in Berlin nightclubs and film industry, then I am afraid that you will be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars adore this book
It's an epic tale and such a great read. I have bought this as a present for so many people now!
Published 6 months ago by stephanie laing
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast- moving and engaging story
Lily Aphrodite, whose first breath is taken in the first minute of the 20th century, shortly afterwards becomes an orphan (mother shot by her father who discovers her in bed with a... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Peter D
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual
The novel centres on the life of Lily, born to somewhat Bohemian parents and then placed in an orphanage. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Hilary
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
After being sent several mediocre titles for the book club I run, the library provided this title for us to read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by C. Bray
3.0 out of 5 stars Good social study of the times
I quite liked this book from the perspective of the social study of those times in Berlin. The poverty, the hardships the political unrest, the rise of the nazi party are all... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Ladyg
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended read of unusual survival and relationships
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I do think it deserves 5 stars. This is the first review that I have written, but I really felt I had to after reading this. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2011 by Amy J
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, just like its heroine.
The thing with this book is that the author gets you to fall in love with Lily very early on, pretty much like every other character that meets her through the novel. Read more
Published on 28 April 2011 by Pilar
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware! This is a tragic tale!
*sigh* i bought this book because the title sounded nice and i rather like tales set in the early 1900s. But my goodness did it disturb me! Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2011 by S. Duke
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning - unusual - different - engaging
I have just finished reading this book and I am lost for words to praise Beatrice Colin and her excellent writing. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2011 by ginalaliq
4.0 out of 5 stars An historically accurate historical novel
I feel a bit mean by not giving this five stars, because it was so very nearly there.

A hugely atmospheric novel (it was this, I think, that made it stand out from the... Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Lauren H
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