The Glimmer Palace
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A celebration of cabaret in Berlin and the birth of cinema, set against the rise and fall of Germany between World War I and World War II
As the clock chimed the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite took her first breath. The illegitimate, soon orphaned daughter of a cabaret performer, she lands at a Catholic orphanage where she finds refuge and the first in a string of friendships that will change the direction of her life. When fellow orphan Hanne takes Lilly beyond their stone confines, introducing her to the seedy glamour of Berlin’s notorious nightlife, it begins for Lillly a trajectory of reinvention. From urchin to maid, teenage war bride, tingle-tangle bargirl, model, and script typist, Lilly is eventually transformed into one of Germany’s leading film stars and a partner in a remarkable love story that will span decades and continents—and be inextricable from the history unfolding around it.
Gripping, seductive, and masterfully written, The Glimmer Palace is a page-turning story of glitter and splendor, drama and love, friendship and identity. The story of an extraordinary heroine living in an extraordinary time, it is vivid and surprising in its telling, intelligent and ambitious in its scope, sad and beautiful and unforgettable.
toenails. “My film got a review,” she said. “Any good?” “Kind of,” Lilly said. “Do you want to read it?” Hanne shook open the newspaper and then, after crumpling the pages until she found it, scrutinized the review. “Did you sleep with him?” “The journalist? I’ve never even met him,” Lilly replied. Hanne handed the newspaper back. Lilly carefully folded it up again, smoothing it down. “You won’t be living here for much longer at this rate,” Hanne said. “What rate?” But Hanne only
could collapse, like the German mark would do, almost overnight. No, to Lilly, as she was still known by Ilya, the film set was home and the crew was like family, at least what she imagined a family would be. And every morning when she came onto the set, he would be there. And every day she would feel that phosphorescence inside. As he kissed her cheek and wished her good morning, she momentarily forgot that the world outside was chaotic and filled with the destitute, the starving, and the
duped her. Finally Eva let her go, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Lilly turned, but Eva could see that her eyes were cast downward and her arms hung limply at her sides. At last Eva had her. And so she played another card. “The day we ran you over,” she said, “you were wearing a uniform. You never went to that school, did you?” “Why do you ask me now?” “Tell me!” “No,” Lilly said. “I didn’t.” It was at that moment that Lilly realized that Eva had maneuvered her into a corner
become more extravagant than ever. She bought a wind-up phonograph and a stack of recordings. She had her dresses altered to make them shorter, sexier, more revealing. French fashion was now filling the department stores again, and Hanne bought them each a pair of buckled shoes with small heels from Paris. “Take them,” she had said when Lilly protested. “I can’t go out dancing alone, and you can’t tango in a pair of boots.” “I can’t tango in a pair of shoes, either,” she replied. “Just put
face softened. She noticed for the first time the color of his eyes: green—green with flecks of blue. He was in Berlin, after all.The elation she felt within, however, had to be put to one side. She was here for Hanne. “My point entirely,” he said. The other men looked slightly dismayed. They were the writers. All four had met that day to discuss the script. Ilya had not been unforthcoming in his criticism. “So, what do you suggest?” he said. “Surely,” continued Lilly, “surely in scene