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FREE E-PUB õ Delayed Rays of a Star: A Novel ì A dazzling novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl cinema legends who lit up the twentieth centuryAt a chance encounter at a Berlin soir e in , the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame up and coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons Anna May Wong, the world s first Chinese American star, playing for bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father s modest laundry and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director would first make her famous then, infamous From this curious point of intersection, DELAYED RAYS OF A STAR lets loose the trajectories of these women s lives From Weimar Berlin to LA s Chinatown, from a seaside resort in East Germany to a luxury apartment on the Champs Elys es, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play siren, muse, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance And in the orbit of each star live secondary players a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours Amanda Lee Koe s playful, wry prose guides the reader dexterously around murky questions of ego, persona, complicity, desire, and difference Intimate and raw, DELAYED RAYS OF A STAR is a visceral depiction of womanhood its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals and announces a bold new literary voice I ve hesitated for a long time should I give it four stars three Let s assume it s 3.5.I really like Amanda s writing, although I feel that the best parts were fictional I get the idea behind the book, but the three main characters just started to tire me down after about 200 pages Usually I m all up for experiments, jumping through time and mixing up threads, but somehow the result in Delayed Rays of Star seemed really chaotic at times I was really tired with the book at the end. Genre Historical FictionPublisher Doubleday BooksPublication Date July 9, 2019Spanning the 1920s to 2003, this sprawling novel is expertly woven with characters that are powerfully alive Koe s novel was inspired by a 1928 photograph taken in Berlin of then up and coming real life actresses, Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl, at a party in Berlin For those who don t know these film icons, Marlene Dietrich was a gender bending German actress who was one of the highest paid Genre Historical FictionPublisher Doubleday BooksPublication Date July 9, 2019Spanning the 1920s to 2003, this sprawling novel is expertly woven with characters that are powerfully alive Koe s novel was inspired by a 1928 photograph taken in Berlin of then up and coming real life actresses, Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl, at a party in Berlin For those who don t know these film icons, Marlene Dietrich was a gender bending German actress who was one of the highest paid Hollywood stars in her day Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American actress to achieve international acclaim Leni Riefenstahl was an actress turned director of Nazi propaganda films as well as nonpolitical films.There are two moving secondary characters in the novel There is a Chinese maid who was a onetime sex trafficked prostitute She now takes care of an old and difficult reclusive woman who happens to be Marlene Dietrich And there is a gay German soldier who had worked in films before the war He was recruited off the battlefield to be a film crew member with Riefenstahl He is mourning the lover he watched die in battle Through his character, one gets glimpses of the average young German soldier s thoughts during the war Not at all different than from those they were fighting Please God let me live through this war Why am I crawling in the mud when the bigwigs that started the war are safely sitting at home Both characters are written in a way that will break your heart without being saccharine.The ambiguous novel takes on many subjects There is sexuality Marlene Dietrich s public image included openly defying sexual norms She was known for her androgynous dressing fashion sense Dietrich was the Hollywood legend who made being queer acceptable, even downright sexy Men and women both drooled over her and she famously bedded both How she got away with this in that period of time is quite a feat Perhaps it was her narcissist personality traits that helped her pull it off Still, while America adored her, Germany was angry and disowned her Marlene remained Marlene until the end of her life The author writes a scene of her maid holding her nose while cleaning an antique Limoges pitcher the 88 year old uses as a bedpan In her famous throaty voice, she hollers at the maid, Everyone should be glad I can still pee For her funeral, she requested that red and white carnations be distributed to those who attended A red carnation would be handed to those who slept with Dietrich and a white one to those who didn t She fantasized fistfights over You slept with her and I didn t These laugh out loud moments are written to perfection This reviewer googled an interview with Marlene s daughter and learned that this was indeed her mother s funeral wish Her mom would have been very disappointed if she knew it wasn t carried out.There is racism Despite being born in California, and the daughter of parents who were themselves born here, Wong was only offered bad evil woman Chinese character roles She was never a lead character The Chinese were as furious with her as the Germans were of Dietrich A moving scene in the book happens when she is in China for a publicity tour Wong is criticized by a film critic for taking stereotypical roles She tries to explain that as a non white in America life can be hard She fiercely fought for different roles She desperately wanted the lead role in the film The Good Earth The movie takes place in turn of the century China She thought she had it She was deep into preparation, giving ideas and costume suggestions when she received a phone call informing her that the role went to a white actress The reason She was too Chinese.There is sexism Leni Riefenstahl was an accomplished filmmaker, one of the first of female filmmakers of her generation Still, she is easy not to like She received financial support from Hitler but, after the fall of the Nazi regime, claimed no knowledge of the Holocaust Koe paints her as willfully unknowing Leni is written in a way that one can almost understand where she is coming from Since she was a woman, no one was willing to take her seriously as a director and back her films She took money where she could and concentrated on her art Like Anna May, she was forced to take whatever she got in order to perform In 1993 there was a documentary made about her, The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl Maybe, this is why she is the only one of the three who gets an entire section in her own voice.Koe s debut novel shows that she is a master storyteller Clearly, her talent comes from being a fellow of the International Writing Program of Iowa and a fiction editor of Esquire Singapore as well as the editor of the National Museum of Singapore s film journal Delayed will appeal to a wide variety of readers Fans of historical fiction centering on women, film buffs, gossipy stories, and those who enjoy WWII political novels that feel like nonfiction in other words, for fans of all genres.Find all my book reviews at Five stars for the impressive execution of this ambitious, epic novel and for the excellent, beautiful writing But I docked a star based on my personal reading experience it s quite a heavy and dense read, such that sometimes I had trouble getting back into the story after putting it down for a while I also don t really like stories that remove quotation marks from the dialogue because it can get hard to differentiate dialogue from normal narration, and I just don t get the purpose Is it ju Five stars for the impressive execution of this ambitious, epic novel and for the excellent, beautiful writing But I docked a star based on my personal reading experience it s quite a heavy and dense read, such that sometimes I had trouble getting back into the story after putting it down for a while I also don t really like stories that remove quotation marks from the dialogue because it can get hard to differentiate dialogue from normal narration, and I just don t get the purpose Is it just a fancy and quirky stylistic choice The novel opens in the 1920s, at a party in Berlin where three actresses Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl met for the first time and pose for a photograph together Yup, the novel is a historical fiction with real life famous people as its characters There s even the two photographs of the three women taken at the party inserted into the book The reader then follows the three women s lives in the subsequent decades, as they advance their acting and also, for Leni, directing careers against the chaotic rise and fall of the Nazi regime The story is divided into three major segments which are individually split up into three mini segments, each taking turns to focus on one of the women Within each mini segment are a number of chapters that really feel like short stories, because of the way they jump to whole new situations and often even a different character as the chapter s focus There are lots of side characters, such as Marlene s Chinese maid and the lighting staff on Leni s film production team, and they are vividly developed too I actually think some of the most memorable chapters come from the side characters.Anna May, Marlene and Leni turn into strong, memorable characters too I knew pretty much nothing about all of them I ll admit it, I d never even heard of Marlene and Leni before this novel so getting to know their lives and legacy was fascinating to me I restrained myself from googling them so I can get to know them from this novel, but after finishing it I did google them and I m intrigued to see how closely the novel follows their real lives However, I was expectingconnections between the three of them and their stories, but only Anna May and Marlene were really in each other s lives after they met at the party So it felt disjointed, reading the three women s chapters together They shared a common socio political context and themes about art, being a female artist and fame, but still I had to re orientate myself a bit when I move between the mini segments.Leni s chapters were also the heaviest, and the tone was quite different from Anna May s and Marlene s, although Anna May s chapters also dealt with racism in early 20th century America and the struggle to find home for the Asian American diaspora Leni s chapters are very heavy because they go quite deep into the political climate of Nazi Germany, with Hitler and Joseph Goebbels both making appearances and even getting dialogue Leni was also a controversial director of Nazi propaganda films, and this novel explores how aware and intentional she was in creating Nazi propaganda, raising questions about whether we can and should separate art from politics, and art from the artist It s very bold of the author to tackle such controversial and complex issues in real history, approaching them from different perspectives, and she has the skill and is knowledgeable about them to do so with sensitivity Even though the writing is a bit dense, I was very engaged in the story most of the time, and I really cared and felt for the characters.Amanda Lee Koe is definitely one of my favourite Singapore authors now, along with Balli Kaur Jaswal I d only ever read one of her short stories from her award winning collection Ministry of Moral Panic, but I could tell her writing is really good, and this, her first novel, shows it evenShe s so smart I d feel intimidated if I ever meet her in real life Thank you to Pansing for sending me copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review In 1928, a photograph was taken of Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich, and Leni Riefenstahl, at a party at Weimar, Berlin Amanda Lee Koe uses this photograph as the basis for her debut novel Delayed Rays of a Star In the novel we follow the lives of these three women over the course of the 20th century I have read Dietrich s biography and Riefenstahl s autobiography and never have I read a novel that uses real people so authentically Each character main to minor glows It is a book about se In 1928, a photograph was taken of Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich, and Leni Riefenstahl, at a party at Weimar, Berlin Amanda Lee Koe uses this photograph as the basis for her debut novel Delayed Rays of a Star In the novel we follow the lives of these three women over the course of the 20th century I have read Dietrich s biography and Riefenstahl s autobiography and never have I read a novel that uses real people so authentically Each character main to minor glows It is a book about sexism, art, racism, and consequences Our smallest actions lead to large outcomes, when we cannot yet know it Amanda Lee Koe is a master storyteller This is her epic Everything became a fantastic joke if you could afford to hang around long enough for the punchline Listening to the Smith s strangeways, here we come in honor of my two favorite characters Ibrahim and B b From netgalley for an honest review