Delayed Rays of a Star

Delayed Rays of a Star

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 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 wen...

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Title:Delayed Rays of a Star
Author:Amanda Lee Koe
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Delayed Rays of a Star Reviews

  • Jacob Wren

    I can't believe how much I loved this book.

  • Jessica T.

    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 Bébé..)

    From netgalley for an honest review...

  • Kit Lea

    full fledged article-review to come for yale's brink review of books

  • Chitra Ahanthem

    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 Chin

    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 Chinese woman) in Hollywood films and film director Leni Riefenstahl whose technical expertise in film making was overshadowed by her association and public praise of Hitler.

    This is an ode to the craft of film making: its creative beauty and the struggles it entails, the politics and the star system, the stereotypes that cinema enforces and maintains, creative partnerships and studio decisions, the disdain and dispensability of actors after a certain age- all of this juxtaposed in the backdrop of the politically fraught era of the prelude to the rise of Hitler, the Second World War, the racial segregations that played out on screen where actors belonging to different races could not be portrayed having romantic or intimate relations.

    I totally loved the way the narrative went back and forth in time and brought in fictional characters integral to the politics of the book: a maid and housekeeper who looks after Dietrich, someone who is a victim of sex trafficking and who gets refugee status later but who continues to face racial discrimination and token charity job hand outs and the man who comes into her life.

    I would say, read this if you love historical fiction. Read it if you love films. Read it for the strong women who take life on the shins. Brilliant!

  • Xueting

    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 expecting more connections 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 even more. She's so

    I'd feel intimidated if I ever meet her in real life!!

  • Katherine Ouellette

    The scene is Berlin, 1928. Three up-and-coming movie stars attend a glamorous industry soirée: Marlene Dietrich, a silent film actress who will denounce her German citizenship and side with the Allies; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress to appear on the silver screen; and Leni Riefenstahl, a German actress who will become the first woman director, and later, the director of Nazi propaganda films. The photograph taken that night served as the catalyst for this novel. Although Delay

    The scene is Berlin, 1928. Three up-and-coming movie stars attend a glamorous industry soirée: Marlene Dietrich, a silent film actress who will denounce her German citizenship and side with the Allies; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American actress to appear on the silver screen; and Leni Riefenstahl, a German actress who will become the first woman director, and later, the director of Nazi propaganda films. The photograph taken that night served as the catalyst for this novel. Although Delayed Rays of a Star is a work of fiction, its protagonists are real figures from history. Author Amanda Lee Koe imagines these women's lives beyond what can be proved as biographical facts, but makes for enticing contemplation. This book straddles across 80 years, 4 countries, half a dozen points of view, and the line between fiction and nonfiction. To call this novel “ambitious” is putting it lightly.

    Admittedly, it takes a few chapters for the pacing to gain its bearings. The opening chapter establishes the points of view of Marlene, Anna May, and Leni, but it pivots too quickly to an eighty-something-year-old Marlene and a disproportionate perspective of her maid, Bébé. However, readers need not worry that the additional perspectives—of Bébé, a Jewish writer friend of Anna May’s, an Afrika Korps member turned best boy on Leni’s movie set, and more—might distract from the stories of the larger-than-life personalities. The collected points of view flesh out each setting with grounding details about the sociopolitical climate that might not have been achieved by stepping into the shoes of a movie star alone.

    What’s most satisfying about this novel is how Koe fills in the gaps of history where biographies can only speculate. She’s not shy about imagining how Marlene might have seduced Anna May, and how both their personal and professional relationships would evolve as they worked on the set of Shanghai Express together. From the very beginning, Koe contrasts Marlene’s overt bisexuality and Anna May’s coy flirtations with Leni’s conservatism. (Leni makes her contempt for crossdressing men evident in the first scene.) They’re all complicated women with outer charm and inner turmoil, but Koe paints sympathetic portraits of Marlene and Anna May while she carefully avoids an antihero portrayal of Leni.

    While Marlene is able to launch her Hollywood career despite the rumors of her less than discreet affairs with both men and women, Hollywood is not as kind to Anna May because of its prevalent racism. The Motion Picture Production Code and miscegenation laws prevent Anna May from kissing a white costar, which means she’s effectively shut out from leading lady roles. Anna May, a second generation American, is forced into bit parts that birthed the “dragon lady” stereotype in Hollywood. When she realizes that her characters are always crude villains who usually die, she sticks up for herself in public interviews, but villains of color and untimely deaths for characters of color are tropes that media still struggles with in modern day.

    More unnerving are the parallels of burgeoning Nazism to American politics today. Is a far-right leader cause for concern? Nothing to be done now, since he was elected by democratic vote. Person of a certain ethnicity being stopped at the border? "We are just following protocol, and you do not possess the required paperwork. We reserve the right to refuse entry." In this book, Leni prolongs the shooting of her movie Tiefland so she can ignore the war and keep her crew safe in the mountains for as long as she can. At the same time, she receives her funding from the Ministry of Propaganda and has a personal connection to Hitler himself. Koe portrays the self-delusion of a woman who thinks she’s kind person just doing what needs to be done to protect her own way of life. But when push comes to shove, she sends the Roma and Sinti extras back to the concentration camp where she had plucked them from.

    The different plotlines feel discordant at first, but Koe blends them together masterfully as the novel progresses. Ultimately, the overarching theme of Delayed Rays of a Star can be boiled down to the line, “Why are we only able to aestheticize or abhor difference?”

  • Lynda

    At first look, a chance meeting of three strong women with different life experiences, captured in a photograph together may seem to be nothing extraordinary. However, this moment was the beginning of an entanglement of challenges, disappointments and enlightenment for Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leni Riefenstahl.

    The novel, “delaying rays of the stars” was focused on variety, not just of the women but also in the varying lengths and pacing of its twenty-two chapters. A historical and bi

    At first look, a chance meeting of three strong women with different life experiences, captured in a photograph together may seem to be nothing extraordinary. However, this moment was the beginning of an entanglement of challenges, disappointments and enlightenment for Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leni Riefenstahl.

    The novel, “delaying rays of the stars” was focused on variety, not just of the women but also in the varying lengths and pacing of its twenty-two chapters. A historical and biographical fiction, it touched on the inner workings of movie making and the mixing of reality and fantasy. Complexity, preconceived expectations and public demands played a major role in each stage of the women's lives. There were many elements I liked, the fight for control, the changing relationships and the way each character saw themselves.

    Travelling with the women through wartime, their careers and aging was revealing. However, I had a difficult time getting through this book. Many times, it lulled or rambled distracting me and I had to put it down for days before I would continue reading it. To be fair, this was the first novel for Amanda Lee Koe and perhaps it was her style of writing or my inability to appreciate and be riveted by the content. Either way, I am sure “delaying rays of the stars” would be well-received by others who appreciate and can enjoy her efforts.

    My honest review was based on the bound galley I won through a giveaway from Penquin Random House.

  • Cindy

    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

    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 does a nice job of tackling other meaningful topics - there is actually no tough subject left untouched! This would be a good book club read as there are so many topics that would solicit good conversation. The author has quite an imagination and successfully intermingles and then ties together the main characters of the book. As an aside, I give this author the reward for the most imaginative and strange chapter titles!

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an early release in exchange for an honest and fair review.

  • Rachel

    Thanks @definitely.books for sending Delayed Rays of A Star, Amanda Lee Koe’s first novel! 🌟

    The book follows 3 real, legendary film icons Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl. NPR sums up, “Wong was the first Chinese American actress to achieve international acclaim, Dietrich ... a bisexual, gender-bending German actress... one of the highest-paid Hollywood stars in her day, Riefenstahl was an actress and director of, among others, the infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of th

    Thanks @definitely.books for sending Delayed Rays of A Star, Amanda Lee Koe’s first novel! 🌟

    The book follows 3 real, legendary film icons Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl. NPR sums up, “Wong was the first Chinese American actress to achieve international acclaim, Dietrich ... a bisexual, gender-bending German actress... one of the highest-paid Hollywood stars in her day, Riefenstahl was an actress and director of, among others, the infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. All 3 women were pioneering in their work and ... harmed by the times and systems she lived within. It is the moral tightropes each woman walks, and the razor thin edge between fulfilling one's ambition and selling one's soul, that is at the core of the novel.” I had mixed feelings but enjoyed her descriptions: “His ass cleft was the color of unhulled beansprouts.”

    “Today Madame’s stool was shaped just like a petit-croissant.”

    “I’m almost 30, these pups aren’t going to stand at attention forever. With that she weighed her left breast in her right palm, like a savvy hausfrau sizing up sweet oranges at a fruit stall. Anyway, she went on in a loud voice, why must a woman always have beautiful breasts?”

    The book reads like a Russian novel. Long, dramatic, dense, multi-charactered, descriptive. Artsy, bold, grandiose, cosmopolitan. Koe is a walking almanac w/ a brilliant mind. I did find the book long-winded and I’m not into historical fiction/old films (the writer also needs to be disabused of the use of the word cigarette) and I think there needs to be CW in place for sexual assault, strong language. There were many characters and scene changes so it was hard to keep track/care about the characters. While Koe has a sophisticated, gargantuan vocabulary (it’s nice to re-visit words; konditorei, erudite, tremulous, cockamamy), I found it hard to access at times, e.g. Chinese lines, obscure film references. Still, it is well researched, meticulously written.

    Koe reminds me of Kevin Kwan, Thomas Mann, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Would recommend this if you’re in the film industry, a historical fiction fan, or simply enjoy long novels/classics! 📚

  • Christine

    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 re

    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 record. Anna May, a Chinese-American, born in LA who was a breakthrough actress, but not "Chinese enough" for Hollywood standards. She returns to China, and realizes she also does not belong in China. Her story was an interesting look at immigrants trying to assimilate into American culture, and how cultural norms in her own country were violated. She donated much money to the Chinese war effort against the Japanese, but the Chinese people felt she violated her culture by succumbing to Hollywood stereotypes.

    Leni, a Hitler supporter who was considered a brilliant director. Her support of the Nazi Party (which she subsequently denied until her death) led to her being shunned from theater work for the remainder of her life. One section, in which she gives an interview, the reader can see how she continued to rewrite her life's narrative, to make her seem less horrific than the crimes she is accused of.

    Marlene.... What can one say of the icon. Her support of the Allies during WW2 led to a sense of betrayal and animosity on the part of her native Germans. She was forward, brash, but one has to admire a woman who stood by her convictions and never apologized for her actions.

    The 2 star rating comes from the spin off stories, which I think the author was trying to correlate back to the historical account. The book jumped not only from person to person but from past to present and was often difficult to follow. There were also some words that were not edited properly and some paragraph phrasing I felt didn't flow properly, making the book a bit difficult to read.

    The horrors of the Holocaust, the general complacence of the average German, is perhaps the most horrific part of modern history. I struggled to draw the correlation I feel the author was trying to make.

    I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway and would like to thank Doubleday for the advanced copy.

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