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Delayed Rays of a Star

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  96 reviews
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 century

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Nan A. Talese
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Martie Nees Record
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Spanning the 1920s to 2003, this sprawling novel is expertly woven with characters that are powerfully alive. Koes 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
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jessica T.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 Dietrichs biography and Riefenstahls 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 ...more
Elvina Zafril
An amazing read. It was wonderful.

Quite heavy for me. A historical and biographical fiction, Touches on the inner workings of movie making and the mixing of reality and fantasy. There were many themes I liked, the fight for control, the changing relationships and the way each character saw each other.

I had difficult time getting through this book because it kind of heavy to me, I just had to put it down for days, but I finished it anyway. Bravo!

The plot was okay and neat. Easy to follow. I
Sai Ram (ZanyAnomaly)
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, books-i-own
"Men would mouth off without thinking twice about who they were crossing. Never having to fight for anything made them complacent and impulsive."
I have been trying to articulate why I love this book for the past 5 months now, and I don't think I still can do it. Because Delayed Rays Of A Star is one of those - one of a kind, beautifully written books that shatter every standard you've set for a book to be good and makes you go "oh wow, I love this in a way like I've never loved any other book".
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Before reviewing Amanda Lee Koe's actual writing it must be noted that the Doubleday hardcover edition of Delayed Rays Of A Star is physically a work of art in bookmaking.  The dust jacket features some beautiful design work by a Michael J. Windsor that perfectly incorporates design aesthetics of the classical Hollywood era and contemporary typography.  The interior of the book also features the same careful attention to aesthetic detail from numbering Anna May Wong's chapters with Chinese ...more
Maine Colonial
Amanda Lee Koes inspiration for this ambitious novel was a single photograph, taken by famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt at a party in Berlin in 1928. The picture is of filmmaker/actress Leni Riefenstahl, Hollywood actress Anna May Wong, and Marlene Dietrich. Koe takes us to this party and uses that as her jumping-off point for stories that read like memoirs from each womans point of view.

To get into the head of each woman is fascinating. Anna May Wong, growing up in Los Angeles was
Yong Feng
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delayed Rays of a Star begins and ends with a photograph of three actresses at a party in Berlin in 1928: Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leni Riefenstahl. Ambitious in its scope and its attempt to render these famous personalities of the early 20th century into relatable and flawed humans, the novel moves back and forth between these three characters as they each make their marks as independent women in a male-dominated film industry, and also wrestle with their respective demons: Dietrich ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
I like the premise of this book, but having just begun reading, I am becoming skeptical. First of all there are no quotation marks to indicate speech vs. thought / narrative. ( Does this author believe she is James Joyce? ) Secondly I really did not want to know what 80+ year-old Marlene Dietrich's poop looks like. Knowing that her chamber pot holds a crescent shaped deposit is an image I do not need in my head. To be continued... I am having more problems with the author's choices about "facts" ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
When I first picked up this book I expected a light read; it is not! I also found this book a bit hard to get into; it felt a touch discombobulated at the beginning and I even though I lost a interest before the end I would still recommend it as the subject matter is well tackled and worth reading. One of the main characters is a fairly famous German during WWII and she disturbingly depicts the indifference to what was going on in the concentration camps and the evil of the Nazis. The book also ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: singapore
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.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this is a modern masterpiece. pls run, not walk, to get your copy. it is about three film icons (dietrich, wong, and liefenstahl) but I think the true gems in this book are the unknown stories of the supporting cast whose lives are marked by the three stars. the prose is dense but never clunky. This is an intricate and intelligent novel, definitely the best one Ive read this year. ...more
Jacob Wren
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe how much I loved this book.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would you dare to make stars like Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich move on the page? What about a director like Leni Riefenstahl who directed Nazi propaganda films (popularly "Triumph of the Will")? Would you dare even have Hitler himself move on your page? To have him speak again? That was what I thought as I read this book, that it takes a certain great audaciousness to write a piece of historical fiction that takes the lives of big figures, and even one of the evilest humans, to move and ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a very creative imagining of Marlene and Anna. The tone and feel of Anna's and Marlene's chapters sounded very similar; they had an ironic (firmly sarcastic) and/or cynical/skeptical feel. The portion about Leni was interesting but almost unnecessary, since her path barely crosses Marlene's a second time.

In addition, some sections told additional stories from peripheral characters, e.g., a maid, a film-stage lighting apprentice, a fan. I'm not quite sure why they were included and what
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
Delayed Rays of a Star presents the story of three actresses captured in one photo in Berlin, prior to WW2. Anna May Wong, a Chinese American actress in Europe looking for more prominent roles not available to her in Hollywood, Leni Riefenstahl, a German actress who would become Hilter's director of his propaganda films, and Marlene Dietrich, German actress and Hollywood legend.

I was very excited to read this book; and the portrayals of the three women were fairly accurate, per the historical
Kit Lea
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
full fledged article-review to come for yale's brink review of books
Chitra Ahanthem
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is historical fiction at its best with a real life photo of the enigmatic star Marlene Dietrich, the exotic Anna May Wong and an almost haughty Leni Riefenstahl taken at a party in Berlin in 1928 being the opening. The book follows the three pioneering divas: Marlene, a star who refused to be boxed in any category in terms of her sexual choices or her professional career choices; Anna Wong who is expected to play just two stereotypical Chinese tropes (the evil woman and the sacrificing ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stellar debut novel. Koe is an author to follow. Sumptuous prose. Historical fiction about Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leno Riefenstahl.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owls2019, queer
4.99 stars

If only there was less Leni! Otherwise perfect, sad because it follows lives till the end. I'd sell a kidney to replace my internal monologue with Amanda Lee Koe's writing. It's also Gay, but equally Sad. Amazing how this story originated from a snapshot, but is such a saga. Actresses age. History happens. This is very good.
Jee Koh
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, own
Delayed Rays of a Star is an expansive novel by Amanda Lee Koe conceived at the moment when three women actresses are photographed at a Berlin soiree in 1928, all of whom would tread vastly different career trajectories even as life will often bring them together.

Marlene Dietrich is the free-spirited, married but untethered actress from Berlin who makes it big in Hollywood, achieving iconic status as her relationship with the direct Josef Von Sternberg takes off. Anna May Wong is a Chinese
an intricate look into three women, whose lives are intertwined in various ways, most notably through their acting ambitions and a shared photograph at a berlin ball (the inspiration of this book). time weaves through pasts and presents, perspectives and relationships of these women, and its done so fucking WELL. at times i was more caught up with side characters plot lines than the focused woman, which on one hand i really LOVED; there were discussions on the privilege of the three main women, ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I won this book in a Doubleday giveaway on Instagram.

An incredible first novel from Koe that delves into the lives of three women who were integral in film in the 20s and 30s and that's putting it mildly. This is definitely historical fiction, but Koe writes in such a way as to make believe you're seeing their lives from the 'fly on the wall' perspective, creating unilateral 'interviews' to interpret their views, their failures, their anger, and their success. I didn't know much
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reading
Boy that Leni was a windbag full of justifications. I loved reading about Marlene. And I really loved learning about Anna May Wong. And while I was reading this, the Google doodle was Anna May!
The story of Bebe and Ibrahim left me confused. Too many lose ends.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early July.

Oh, Ive been waiting for this one for sure: second-person narration of Marlene Dietrich, Leni Riefenstahl, and (my dear one, my tattoo) Anna May Wong with in-depth writing that gets to the core of each of the womens inner self to find what they hide and covet from the rest of the world as they age. Marlene as unabashedly confrontational, aging ungracefully, and vilified by Germany with her siding with
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
There is a lot more going on here, but as she constitutes the major through line for the 70-year period covered by this book, I will leave as my review only the following:

Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nov-2019
A behind the scenes story of three women on their rise to fame. The book sort of read like a "where are they now" story, but with better storytelling. Much of what these women endured while trying to make it was kind of heartbreaking, and you wanted so much for these to be respected and supported. It was a detailed look at what starlets back in those days had to put up with from the industry as well as other women in the business who were also trying to make it and sustain.
A common thread among reviewers, I saw, was that it was a dense and heavy read.

Well, there were many characters, but it never felt like I didn't know who was speaking at any one time. For one, the writing was mostly focused on what was happening and their thoughts. Interestingly, I found the lack of quotation marks immersive because what they were saying sounded to be like their thoughts.

This book centers its story around three main protagonists: famous Marlene Dietrich, struggling Anna May
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldnt put this book down despite not usually being a fan of historical fiction. I didnt have much previous knowledge about the historical figures in this story except for Anna May Wong, but I was intrigued by all of their narratives. And I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the story follows a thread of queer women and relationships (and the author is queer as well). ...more
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Born in Singapore and currently based in New York, Amanda Lee Koe is the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her first short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic (Epigram Books, 2013), which was also shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt's Internationaler Literaturpreis, and the Frankfurt Book Fair's LiBeraturpreis.

The working manuscript for her first novel,

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