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The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite Paperback – 8 Jan 2009

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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: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 148,010 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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Whimsical Witch on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pilar on 28 April 2011
Format: Paperback
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.

Lily has a wonderfully transparent look: if you met her, you could probably look into her soul. But contrary to what the back cover of the paperback edition suggests, this is not just a rag to riches story or an epic love affair. Rarely does Lily live "in riches" and her love offers are tainted, mainly due to the era in which she grew up.

"The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite" begins in Berlin, right at the beginning of the 20th century. What makes this book (mildly) painful to read at times, is that as it spans the First World War and ends with the rise of Hitler, you know life is not going to be easy for the characters involved.

There is a sense of tragedy throughout the book- but the charm of the characters, together with the wonderful storytelling, allow you to skim through the sorrow, knowing that every now and then you will feel a sense of warmth and even smile.

Lily is an orphan. A bright, wide-eyed girl who also has a heart of gold. She's a survivor who charms all those around her to the point of becoming a film-star in the early thirties.

A sense that characters have a life before and after we meet them, makes meeting them a rich experience. Even those characters we meet for the brush of an arm or a brief encounter, have a few lines dedicated to their past or their future, making a whole ear come alive.

As a reminder of the conditions that led to two world wars, this novel is priceless. An episode in which a poor boy is left crying when his horse dies in the middle of the street and is devoured by all those in the vicinity, says it all. Berlin feels bleak, dark, dangerous and a place where perversity in all its forms is the best substitute for a comfortable, nourished life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
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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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Read Me on 10 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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