Cover Image: Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Marlene Dietrich is an icon with a rich backstory. She’s one of my favourite of the screen idol days and this book does her justice. Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Beautifully written,  dense with detail but vivid with it .  The story of Dietrich called Madou .. a glamorous,  utterly self absorbed movie star .. and her daughter,  loved but unattractive and (although  it took me time to work this out:) and  the mirror that tracks her life,  and tells her secrets.  Perhaps there were problems telling a life story when some are still alive but I certainly got confused about times and people... the nuances of tremendous are well conveyed .. there is not a plot, so to speak,  but the chronology of a life told by this unpleasant woman and her child as she grows to adulthood.. I wasn't always engaged with the narrative as a result.
Was this review helpful?
An intriguing and interesting look into the glamour of Hollywood in tumultuous times of history. 

The writing was evocative and the characterisations solid.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Great book. Excellently written.
Throughly enjoyed reading this.
Thank you to both NetGalley and William Collins for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review
Was this review helpful?
Byrne is an outstanding biographer - her books on Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh and Kick Kennedy in particular are brilliant.  Her fiction is good, but just not as good.

This is a fictionalised telling of the life story of Marlene Dietrich and her rise from Berlin clubs to being one of the most glamorous and recognisable film stars in the world.  Her story is told, in alternate chapters, by her daughter and her mirror, and it is quite a story - the golden age of Hollywood, the opulence, the rich and famous lovers, but also the woman prepared to risk danger to entertain the troops in the Second World War.  What emerges is a complex and often quite unpleasant character who inflicts casual cruelties on her daughter and is obsessed with her appearance.  

There was much to enjoy in this book, but all the way through, I just wished that this was a more traditional biography.  The use of nicknames and alternative names for characters (Dietrich herself is 'Joan Madou', for example) meant that I was never really sure what was real and what was fiction, or even who was who sometimes - there is an assumption that you either know the story (e.g. the identity of her lovers) or that it somehow doesn't matter.  I also wondered what Dietrich's daughter (who I believe is still alive) makes of the novel as it is essentially putting words into her mouth.  I think maybe I just expected the book to be something that it's not - probably my fault rather than Byrne's.

Overall, this is a well-written and engaging read, but not one that will give more than a hazy impression or interpretation of Dietrich herself.  Personally, I'd have liked this more if it was either totally fictionalised (unlinked from Dietrich totally) or a biography.  The halfway house doesn't totally work for me.
Was this review helpful?
Really enjoyed this one and developed a slight obsession with Marlene Dietrich after. It's truly excellent literary fiction and a great read to escape back to the glamorous days of Hollywood.
Was this review helpful?
‘Mirror Mirror’ is Paula Byrne’s second novel.  An acclaimed biographer, she takes the life of Marlene Dietrich and fictionalises it, referring, for the most part, to Dietrich as Madou, and recounting episodes of her life in alternating chapters through the voice of her beloved mirrors and her ugly duckling, overweight daughter, Kater.
As with all really beautiful people, Dietrich is seen by most primarily for her looks rather than for her character.  However, Byrne shows her as far more than a screen siren, oscillating between being supremely selfish and egotistical and full of self-doubt.  She is also horrified by what Hitler is doing to Germany and finally renounces her citizenship – a brave stand when many are turning a blind eye to the Nazi party’s atrocities.
Nevertheless, whilst this novel could have focused in more detail on the politics of the 30s and 40s, Byrne’s main focus is on the mother-daughter relationship depicted throughout the narrative.  Little wonder that it’s complicated; how difficult it must have been as the child of the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  Especially when that child is a shy, overweight, ill-educated, lonely little girl often left to her own devices.
Whilst Madou professes to love her more than anyone, Kater is ill-served by her mother in nearly every respect.  What the novel really leaves us with is that it can take a very long time for an abused child to allow themselves to see a negligent parent for whom they really are.  In the Epilogue Kater recognises that ‘you did nothing to protect me.  And now I don’t know if I can ever forgive you.’  But it’s too late for her to question her mother adult-to-adult about her decisions.
‘Mirror Mirror’ is a very carefully researched novel and an interesting read but it didn’t move me in the way this story might have.  The slightly sneering voice and self-congratulatory perspective of the mirror does not invite the reader to connect emotionally other than to feel anger at some of Madou’s everyday cruelties towards her daughter.  There’s no in-depth exploration of why she inflicts such damage.  A pity; that story would have been fascinating.  
My thanks to NetGalley and William Collins for a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair review.
Was this review helpful?
I have enjoyed some non-fiction reads by Paula Byrne before (‘The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things,’ and, ‘Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead,’ among them).  However, I have never read any fiction by her, but I am so glad that I gave this a try.

“Mirror, Mirror,” is a fictional biography, based upon the life of Marlene Dietrich.  It encompasses so much within a novel  - the difficult relationship between a mother, who is also a famous film star, and her plainer daughter, who is over-shadowed at every step.   It is also set in such an interesting period of history, with our actress leaving Berlin and possibly putting her family in danger by doing so.   Unlike so many, in that time, she never underestimated the danger of Hitler.

As the title says, this is also about mirrors.  It is about beauty, which will, despite every effort, fade. It is about the mirrors that reflect that beauty, with all its flaws.   Glass follows our characters, from that in the camera to the smashed glass of Kristallnacht.  A fabulous read.   I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Was this review helpful?
Literary fiction at its best.A story of beauty that begins to fade,.A book of a difficult mother& daughter relationship.a time in history a story that drew me in highly recommend.#netgalley#4thestate
Was this review helpful?
This was a fascinating book with an exciting group of characters. The storyline flow was seamless. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?