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The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite

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3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  1,515 Ratings  ·  231 Reviews
In the tradition of Michel Faber and Sarah Waters, a literary historical novel about an orphan girl's journey from poverty to film stardom, set against the grand backdrop of World War I Berlin, the cabaret era, the run-up to World War II, and the innovations in art and industry that accompanied it all.

Big, rich, intelligent, and masterfully written, here is a page-turning
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Kindle Edition
Published March 2009 by John Murray (first published July 24th 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Cobber
Mar 25, 2009 Cobber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope this book gets made into a film. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did but the author made it so authentic. The sense of atmosphere she creates sends shivers down my spine at how well it was done. A perfect book that I didn't want to end. The main character was really easy to relate to and being set in wartime it added so much tension to proceedings. Really worth a read if you're looking for something different.
Ally
I liked this book but it didn't blow me away.

I was intrigued by the 'look behind the mirror' offered by this story - history, as we know, is written by the victors so it was illuminating to see WW1&2 from a German perspective. It was dark and brooding and full of atmosphere and I loved the characters and found them deep and well rounded.

The reason I haven't scored this book higher than a 3 is that there were a few points within the story that I was desperate to know more historical backgroun
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Teresa
Jan 16, 2009 Teresa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to enjoy this novel - the whole premise appealed to me, the decadence of pre-war Berlin, the energy of the emerging German film industry set alongside the insidious menace of the Nazi Party seemed an intriguing combination. Indeed, this aspect of the novel is adroitly handled by the author thanks to her assiduous research. Berlin ended up being the most interesting character for me and you really feel its presence as a living, everchanging force, one minute full of gaiety and the ...more
MAP
The original title of this book was "The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite" but I can see why it was changed -- there is nothing luminous about either the book or the character. The novel follows Lilly from her birth in 1900 Germany through the 1930s - and we experience every single second of it.

This book has a LOT of flaws that kept me from becoming engaged in it. The writing style is bizarre - we often go down little plot cul-de-sacs with characters we'll never see again, and there's an abundan
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Sarah
Dec 25, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't exactly pinpoint why I didn't much care for this book. It was overwritten, but so are a lot of early twentieth-century historical fiction books, and this one had some pretty good moments. It's not as ambitious or poignant as it tries to be, but it manages to be pretty interesting.

Must be the characters, I guess. I am so sick of the neglected orphan girl with the ethereal beauty and the quiet but somehow wildly entrancing presence. Can someone please write about an ugly orphan girl? Who
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Gerund
Mar 02, 2009 Gerund rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
THE Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite (titled The Glimmer Palace in the American edition) is the dramatic, film adaption-ready story of the life of a fictional German orphan girl turned movie star in early 20th century Berlin.

More than just a rags-to-riches tale, it also traces the development of the German film industry, which was once one of the largest and most innovative in the world.

And more impressively, the novel aims to convey the ethos of Berlin during one of the city's most vibrant, des
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Carey
Sep 04, 2008 Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the first few minutes of the year 1900 Lilly Nelly Aphrodite is born in Berlin, Germany. Her mother is a volatile, unmarried cabaret performer. By the time Lilly is two her parents are dead and she is placed in an orphanage where she will remain until she is in her early teens. Lily does not make friends easily and it is not until the age of about twelve when she makes the one friend who will remain a part of her life in the future, Hanne Schmidt.

Hanne is a new arrival at the orphanage and is
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Simay Yildiz
Dec 13, 2009 Simay Yildiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Simay by: daisychainbooks
Shelves: favorites, historical
This book was a great finish to 2010. It takes place in 20th century Germany and has a lot of historical content as well as a lot of personal stories. The main character is Lilly Nelly Aphrodite, whom we follow throughout the book, starting from the day she was born. I can sum it up like this: she grows up in an orphanage, then she has to leave when the orphanage is closed down, and then she becomes a movie star. And, of course, there are quite a bit of people who walk in and out of her life alo ...more
Blair
Jun 20, 2009 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled with this a bit at the beginning but went on to discover that it is in fact a fantastic read - very atmospheric and assiduously well-researched, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or is even remotely interested in the history and culture of Germany (specifically the city of Berlin). Although I found the author's use of language captivating from the start, my main issue with the early part of the book was that I found it very hard to accept that so many grown ...more
Siobhán Eloise ✿
I absolutely fell in L O V E with this book, the whole concept of it kept me hooked until the very end. It is one of those books that when you pick it up you just can't seem to put it back down again, I ended up reading it within 9 hours.

It's about an orphan called Lilly who we see develop throughout the book to become a thriving young lady in the busniess of film which in Germany 1930's/40's were a massive success with bringing about fresh new supporters of the Nazi party. As it's set in Berli
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Hannah
Dec 23, 2010 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hannah by: Simay Yildiz
This is one of those books where I fall completely in love with it, give it 5 stars, yet still want to scream FUCK THIS BOOK. This book was beautiful, stunning, and above all, HEARTBREAKING. And sad. So much sadness. The writing is, as I said, stunning. The descriptions of that era, of WWI and the lead-up to WWII, the suffering, the lifestyles and struggles, the beauty, the ugliness, everything. It's lyrical, magical, perfect. Well, almost. That ending. I cannot not forgive it....yet, how else c ...more
Valerie
Sep 11, 2009 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a gorgeous and devastating book. The advertised material makes this novel sound like a fun romp. However, it takes place in Germany at the turn of the 20th century and travels through the life of its protagonist into Hitler's rise. I knew little about the travails that lead to the power of the Nazi's. I recommend this book with the caveat that there was much sadness and depravity in this history and you must be prepared to read about how that translated into the life of a child without ...more
Virginia
Sep 20, 2011 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. With a WWI Berlin background it weaves a fascinating story of an orphan who eventually becomes a movie star. The characters are very interesting and the plot is riveting. It kept me guessing right up to the end and it just seemed so real that I really had to keep reminding myself it was fiction. The war and its after effects are always in the background, but this novel deals with the German people and how politics affected them n ...more
Paula
Jan 14, 2014 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this book! What a lovely surprise - I don't even recall where I got it - garage sale? Book sale? Anyway, very enjoyable piece of historical fiction set in early 20th century Germany. Not a happy book by any means, but really nicely developed main character & solid storylines.

The ending did leave me a tiny bit empty - what happened with her, Ilya, Stefan...
Mari Ewart
Feb 10, 2010 Mari Ewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction about an orphan in World War 1 and her survival and success as a film star in Hitler's Germany. I finished this one with absolute astonishment about how a Germany so decimated in the first World War could deliberately start another one.
Carol Hislop
I'm exhausted reading this book - so much happens in it. It started out all Orphan Annie (Its a hard luck life....) then merged in with "Cabaret" (Life is a .....). The writing was good but there was just too much of everything in it. I always like to give a book a good chance to get going - usually 50 pages does it. At page 48 I was getting set to ditch it but the storyline suddenly perked up and I kept going. This happened all the way through the book really - a lot of peaks and troughs and in ...more
Charl
Sep 12, 2014 Charl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In short: a tale of one woman’s life which spans across decades of intense political, social and economic change in the bustling city of Berlin.

Firstly, the blurb is a little disingenuous. It makes the story sound incredibly whimsical, romance-based and relatively light-hearted, when in reality this book is far from fluffy and upbeat.

This is certainly an ambitious undertaking: a book set during moments of historical significance, intertwining real events with the fictional life of an orphan tur
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Kate Oatis
Feb 15, 2017 Kate Oatis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoying Beatrice Colin's books and love this one, too. She's a wonderful storyteller, and her characters are well-developed and complex. Big fan. Looking forward to reading more of her fine, fine work.
Ed
Nov 18, 2012 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kind of surprised to see how bad some of the reviews for this are, as I enjoyed it a lot. I'm trying to be more sparing with my five-star ratings (I'm quite generous with my ratings tbh) but couldn't think of anything I disliked about this enough to knock off a star. It was a page-turner. Oh yeah, it's also been published as The Glimmer Palace, I guess because The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is a bit of a mouthful. I found it lurking in a discount book place for a couple of quid and, never ...more
Paula
May 12, 2010 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite’ is the story of Lilly Nelly Aphrodite born on the 1st January 1900 to a cabaret performer and a man known as ‘The Bavarian Lover’. Lilly’s entrance to the world is memorable, not only because of her birth but due to fact her skin was coloured blue because of the blue hand-woven cloth she was wrapped in, then the midwife finds that Lilly is not breathing and is brought back to life by the midwife’s palm smacking her back.

Lilly’s mother does not embrace mothe
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Liz
Feb 21, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This was a beautifully written book. It tells the story of a contemplative orphan and her life growing up and growing strong through the trials she faces in Berlin during the 1920s. I loved it for two reasons: One, because the character of Lilly was so inspiring; she was a real heroine in the style of Thomas Hardy's Tess D'urberville. I often think 'what would Lily do?' now, when I'm struggling with life. The writing is so descriptive and the detail really stays with you afterwards, while also h ...more
Liz
Feb 20, 2013 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This was a beautifully written book. It tells the story of a strong orphan and her life growing up through the trials she faces in Berlin during the 1920s. I loved it for two reasons: One, because the character of Lilly was so inspiring; she was a real heroine and I often think 'what would Lily do?' now, when I'm struggling with life. The writing is so descriptive and the detail really stays with you and helps build a vivid picture of what the characters looked like. It's so good you can actuall
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Stephanie Jane
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite was recommended to us by Dave's daughter Carrie. He bought it for his Kindle account which I can access via Amazon's newish Sharing programme. Like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Lilly is born at the beginning of a new era - in her case the beginning of the 20th century. Through her eyes, we see the desperate poverty suffered by many people in Germany in the period from 1900 until the end of the Second World War. Another of my recent reads, Life After ...more
Beth
Oct 17, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites-2012
Lilly's story is a classic Bildungsroman as the reader follows her from the day of her birth, through her childhood and beyond. Throughout the novel Colin weaves in elements of the history of the period to contextualise the things that are happening in Lilly's life and with a particular interest in this period and having studied it previously, I really enjoyed this. As Colin mentioned the Wall Street Crash and the Beer Hall Putsch and other historic events which had huge impacts on the lives of ...more
Scott
Feb 07, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in Berlin, the life story of Lilly Aphrodite is told against the backdrop of the social and political change that is shaping Germany between 1900 and the prelude to WWII.

Beatric Coline deftly weaves a world so thick with personality the characters positively clamour across the page to tell their story. Told in the omnipotent third person, there are places which coudl jar as the narrator, in a God-like fashion, explains the outcome of minor characters whilst they still cavort before us. This
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Kate
I was surprised by this book. The beginning feels slow, yet, I was startled to reach the end. A bit like a film, there. I was so lost in Lilly’s world that when I turned the page to find the Acknowledgements, it was like watching credits roll.

Lilly is born on New Year’s Day in 1900, her birth was not necessarily celebrated, and after the murder of her mother, she winds up in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns. Lilly attracts a friend in Hanne, who will haunt her for the rest of her life.

When th
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Author Annette Dunlea
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite (Book Review)
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is a bestselling literary novel by Beatrice Colin. It is a paperback published by John Murray and its ISBN is 1848540310. It is so well written it is a pleasure to read and it is full of historical content of 20th century Germany and the history of the movie industry. It is a sad and touching story rich in characterisation and highly evocative. Through a lovers quarrel Lilly is orphaned and sent to a Catholic
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Helen
Apr 24, 2014 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite focuses on the story of film making in Germany’s Weimar Republic and the development of Hollywood’s golden age. Alongside this, is the depiction of the First World War and how its aftermath impacts upon Germany, with years of consequent political upheaval and economic hardship, the resulting rise of the Nazi party and the persecution of Jews.

Binding together this broad sweep of social, cultural, political and military history, is the golden thread of the nove
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Ameesha Green
Dec 27, 2014 Ameesha Green rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, this book stayed on my unread shelf for a long time. Perhaps the name and cover put me off (I actually prefer the American version's name and cover, The Glitter Ball, though the life of Lilly Aphrodite seems more appropriate). So when I finally got around to reading it, I was very pleasantly surprised!

Colin's writing style is rich and evocative and she certainly crafts a beautiful sentence. She manages to switch between small detailed and conversational sections and wider time
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KarenLee
Aug 27, 2009 KarenLee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like historical fiction and are interested in the beginnings of the film industry.
Recommended to KarenLee by: I found this through reading the blurbs on first reads.
This is a fine historical novel of an illegitimate child born at the turn of the century and orphaned at age 2, who grows up to become a movie star in early german films. The child is named Lilly Nelly Aphrodite by her mother, a cabaret star. She is raised in an orphanage from age 3 until the orphanage is closed when she is 11. She comes of age between the two world wars and as I know little about this time period, I appreciated the historical information. I thank the author for the research she ...more
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I'm a novelist/radio dramatist. I've written seven novels (two for children) and numerous plays for BBC Radio 4.

My new novel, To Capture What We Cannot Keep is published in late 2016/early 2017.

The book has its own website: tocapturewhatwecannotkeep.com. Here you can read about ideas behind the novel, look at pics and sign up for the newsletter. I would love to hear from you.

I am inspired by new
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“But that night, the future was still blank. The film had not been shot, the bromide was still in its brown glass bottle. Nothing had been fixed.” 0 likes
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