The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite opens with Lily's birth. Her mother could be described as Bohemian and unconventional but her homelife is soon to be replaced by the 'family' she inherits as an orphan in a Berlin orphanage. Lily eventually befriends the streetwise Hanne who shows her life outside their home. When the orphanage closes Hanne and Lily lose touch (a recurring theme) and Lily has to grow up in a hurry as she struggles to survive in a brutal, war torn Germany.
This is where the real story begins and life for Lily just seems to be one trauma to deal with after another.
Things are bleak, depressing, grim and hopeless. Through it all though, Lily seems to keep her chin up, while all around her people are dropping like flies and making poor choices. There's not a lot of luminosity in Lily's life though, despite what the title tells you. I had thought that Lily would make a name for herself as an actress and I'd be able to revel in the success she enjoyed, but mostly there isn't a lot to celebrate. Any success she has is accidental or brought about by being in the right place at the right time and I never got the impression that Lily was very instrumental in getting to where she was.
Most of her good luck stems from the fact that she was breathtakingly beautiful with haunting eyes and a voice like a caress.....at least that's how everyone else sees her, Lily herself doesn't know what the fuss is about.
I didn't hate the book, but it's difficult for me to really love a book when things are so bleak. I was hoping for the payoff at the end, where some sort of reward was waiting for Lily, to compensate for all the hardship and fight she had to contend with, but No, the end is the hardest part of all......
Beautifully written, and very well researched, it's brings the German era surrounding the first world war and the Weimar rule startlingly into focus.
I suppose it's content can be best summed up by the cover artwork .... it's very Film-Noir.