Cover Image: The Dictator’s Muse

The Dictator’s Muse

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thoroughly enjoyable historical novel about a fascinating figure - Leni Reifenstahl - her obsessive biographer comes across photos and goes in search of who they were. 

right from the start the narrative drive - who is that gorgeous englishman in the films that Leni secreted in a vault - is put forward - so we are watching that while we learn about her biography - and her long, long life - and her ways and means of dodging the fascistic males around her- from itel onwards.
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The story opens with a young German film historian researching Leni Riefenstahl’s Berlin Olympics, and becoming fascinated by a British athlete who appears on film. She decides to find out more about him by coming to the UK. We are taken back in time, and discover the problems around the competing factions. Antisemitism rears it’s head in Britain as well as Germany, with the fascist and communists creating tensions  leading up to the games and beyond.
The story is well researched historically, and the fictional characters were extremely believable. The balance between the different times felt right, as so often novels which jump about can be irritating in how often you are taken back an forth. This was not the case here, and everything flowed in very readable way.
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I didn't expect to enjoy this book quite as much as I did. The whole concept seemed unlikely to me. And yet, before I knew it I was swept up in the tale, unable to put it down and eager to find out what would happen next. A well researched and interesting account into a time of unimaginable horror that explores aspects of that time we don't get to hear about very much.
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The Dictator's Muse is set during the Berlin Olympics of the 1930's. Hitler is taking power and the book focuses on Leni Riefenstahl, a film-maker popular with the Third Reich, whom Hitler has requested capture the Olympics.
Competing in the Olympics is British athlete Kim Newlands. Along with his socialite girlfriend Connie, he joins the Blackshirts, who sponsor him to compete. 

Alun Pryce is a communist set on infiltrating the Blackshirts. Acting undercover, he finds his way into Kim and Connie's lives, and the three become inextricably intertwined, a relationship built on lies and misdirection with heart-wrenching consequences. As the three arrive at the Olympics and meet Leni, the story unfurls. Leni is moving in dangerous circles, and the writing is suspenseful and gripping, showing us the knife-edge that Leni is balancing on in her relationship with the Third Reich and Hitler himself.

In the present day, Sigrun Meier is attempting to piece together Leni's life and work. Via her investigations, we discover what happened to the Leni's film of the unknown athlete at the Olympics, and also what happened to Alun, Connie and Kim. The ending seemed a little far-fetched and convenient for me, and I felt that the author could have delved into Leni Riefenstahl's relationship with the Third Reich further, as well as the history of the Blackshirts and those who worked against them - as someone with little knowledge of this period in time, I felt as though the political factions took somewhat of a backseat to the characters and their stories and would have appreciated more background on what each group represented. The characters themselves are excellently portrayed, however, and this is what makes the book such a great read.

I was gripped by this book, more than I expected. It is a subject area I know little about and this book has piqued my interest, I really want to find out more about Leni Riefenstahl and her relationship with the Nazis, as well as the events surrounding the Berlin Olympics and the athletes competing. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting a thrilling, intense read.
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Historical fiction based on real characters is usually fascinating, and the Dictator's Muse is no exception. Written with great attention to detail, it was an engaging read, and obviously well researched.

I found the ending a little abrupt but overall I enjoyed reading about this fascinating woman, Leni Riefenstahl, and the author's imagining of events was, I felt, written with integrity.
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I found this book hard to get into, but I'm not sure why. The story set in 1938 around the time of the Olympic games, was good, the characters were well written and I found the history very interesting.  Some how it didn't get to me, but after saying that I am glad I read it.
Thank you NetGalley
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A fascinating premise and setting for a book, and the story of conflicting loyalties is deftly told.
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Europe in the 1930s and in Germany preparations are being made for the 1936 Olympics. Leni Riefenstahl is tasked with filming them for posterity. Back in England hopeful but poor athlete Kim Newlands is training hard for his chance of Olympic gold even if that means accepting sponsorship from Oswald Mosley and his infamous Blackshirts. Connie is a charming aristocratic young woman who encourages him to join this nascent Fascist organisation. Alun Pryce is a Communist tasked with infiltrating it. Both men fall in love with Connie, leading to predictable conflicts. So it’s a tangled web all round, a mixture of fact and fiction, real-life characters and made-up ones, plots and sub-plots, which on the whole the author weaves together fairly successfully. There are some false notes, admittedly. An imagined scene between Riefenstahl and Hitler feels clumsy. Leni herself talks in clichés throughout and is the least convincing character. The novel is framed by the work of Sigrun Meier, a present-day film historian, who is  researching Riefenstahl and gets caught up with the stories of the other characters, and this is the least successful aspect of the novel, particularly with the ending which stretches credulity just too far, and the tying up of loose ends becomes too far-fetched. Having said that, I did enjoy the book on the whole. The narrative is fast-paced and carries the reader along, the adventures and mishaps of the characters are entertaining and mainly convincing, so with a few reservations, I found it an entertaining and compelling read as long as I let my critical faculties take a bit of a back seat.
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What a read this is.

The action centres around the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler is in power, and for the duration of the games the truth of the Nazis persecution of the Jews is hidden. Documenting the games is Leni Riefenstahl, a high flying movie star, friend of many powerful Nazis, yet remaining independent.

Leni is a powerful, sexual, fiesty and intriguing character. She seeks to seduce Kim Newlands, a British athlete who dreams of conquering the American Jesse Owens and by joining Mosley's fascist Blackshirts has acquired the sponsorship to pursue his dreams; with Kim is his girlfriend, Connie, a gentrified girl in opposition to Kim's working background. Completing the main cast is Alun Pryce, a Welsh communist who is trying to infiltrate Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts.

A political novel which touches on many continuing contemporary issues, but this is also a novel of emotion and love with a great ending. All in all it has caused me a few late nights having to continue reading! Highly recommended.
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It is the early 1930s, and Europe is holding its breath. As Hitler's grip on power tightens, preparations are being made for the Berlin Olympics. Leni Riefenstahl is the pioneering, sexually-liberated star film-maker of the Third Reich. She has been chosen by Hitler to capture the Olympics on celluloid but is about to find that even his closest friends have much to fear. Kim Newlands is the English athlete 'sponsored' by the Blackshirts and devoted to his mercurial, socialite girlfriend Connie. He is driven by a desire to win an Olympic gold but to do that he must first pretend to be someone he is not. Alun Pryce is the Welsh communist sent to infiltrate the Blackshirts. When he befriends Kim and Connie, his belief that the end justifies the means will be tested to the core.

Through her camera lens and memoirs, Leni is able to manipulate the truth about what happens when their fates collide at the Olympics. But while some scenes from her life end up on the cutting room floor, this does not mean they are lost forever

The author has done a great deal of research and does not hesitate to delve into the politics, attitudes and events of the day, in Britain, in Germany and even in America. Some readers may feel he is a little too generous towards the actions of a few of his characters.


Thanks to Net Galley and Random House UK for an advance copy in return for a fair and honest review
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The Dictator's Muse is an interesting piece of fiction, based on facts, and set just prior to WW2. Central to the story is Leni Riefenstahl, famous as being a maker of propaganda films at the time and for contributing hugely to the Hitler myth in Germany. Set around her are a mix of real people and fictional characters.

For me the most important character was Kim Newland, a fictional athlete who goes to the 1936 German Olympics and competes against the famous Jesse Owens. Sadly he chooses his friends unwisely. His girlfriend, Connie and best friend Alun are the kind of characters you love to hate.

The author has done a great deal of research and does not hesitate to delve into the politics, attitudes and events of the day, in Britain, in Germany and even in America. Some readers may feel he is a little too generous towards the actions of a few of his characters.

After a fairly robust and factual story however the book loses direction at the end and becomes a little too fantastical. I found this disappointing but it does not change the fact that it is certainly worth reading.
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Leni Riefenstahl's German actress, movie director slogan 'I am not interested in politics, only art' was her motto and her undoing. When it comes to the gist of things, one cannot separate art (cinema) from politics (Nazism) especially when it comes to the woman loved by the highest Hitler's followers and even Furer himself, and director who is infamous for making the best Nazi propaganda films.

I thought The Dictator's Muse would be a story of Leni Riefenstahl, her talent and escapades. But it turned out to be a collective image of the period (pre World War II Europe). I was hoping for insightful interesting read into woman's history and life. But the book failed to take me and make me involved.

It's hard for me to read on Nazi history as it is. However, I was willing to give this book a chance, to separate personal from art and history... but...
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A new book by this underrated writer is always something to look forward to and this certainly met my expectations. Farndale writes beautifully and is excellent on describing relationships and the content in which they occur. He has a wonderful sense of time and place and evokes the Germany of the 1930's beautifully. I won't reveal the plot but I was entertained, engrossed and educated in equal does.
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Although Leni Riefenstahl had established herself as a successful actress in Germany, when she moved to the other side of the camera she found her greatest fame and the eye of Der Führer, Adolf Hitler. Riefenstahl had been commissioned to make a film of Hitler, ‘Triumph of the Will’ released in 1935 that was a great success in promoting him as a worthy world leader.

In 1936 Berlin was to host the Olympic games, and Riefenstahl was to capture it on film. Rumours were already circulating of an affair between Hitler and her, something she denied but played on too. The thing that made her different from other filmmakers of the time were the unusual angles she filmed from, which could put a whole new light on a subject.

The story starts with a young woman, Sigrun Meier, arriving at the property where Riefenstahl had died in 2005. Meier had on numerous occasions asked to speak with her but had been refused. But she had left it in her will that Meier will be allowed to view footage of films that no one else had seen. There are numerous offcuts of film, showing the 1936 games containing footage of an unknown young English man.

There is a web of stories all taking place at once, all connected by the actions and choices they make. It all felt natural and real to me, with historical names and stories blending with fiction with precision. Riefenstahl was quite a character, a bit of a tease, very talented and full of confidence, but there is a place in this story that took my breath and brought her back to look at her mortality up close.

A brilliant top story, it flows beautifully with love, hopes, desires and propaganda of the time. Fascinating, engaging and terrifying.

I wish to thank Net Galley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
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This book is really not my sort of book at all. Literally nothing about this book appealed to me, but as it was a widget, I decided to give it a go.

I’m so pleased I did, it’s absolutely fantastic, I literally couldn’t put it down, flew through it. It’s historical fiction, written so beautifully that it was hard to remember that some parts had been “filled in” for the story.

I think I need to rethink my genres! Absolutely brilliant.

My thanks to Netgalley and Transworld Publishers; Penguin Random House UK for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review
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I was a little apprehensive about reading this book, set in pre war UK and Germany, but found it a compelling read.
Whether it is historically correct was not my reason to read it, I was interested in the portrayal of its main and subsidiary characters, against the backdrop of two nations, the Olympic games and their own back stories.
Well written and held my attention to the end.
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This is a new author for me. I read a lot of historical fiction now and particularly enjoy books about WWII or the Nazi’s. The Dictator’s Muse focuses on aspects of Hitler and the Nazi’s and a perspective I haven’t encountered before so it offered something new. The chapters switched between the point-of-view of Leni, Kim and Alun, gradually revealing how they become entwined in each other’s lives and the darkness that links them, especially Kim and Alun as Kim is unaware how Alun truly came to part of his life and what his sinister motivations are. I found this well-written, engrossing and intense at times as the book heads deeper into darkness. I thought this was a terrific read.
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I was intrigued by this book, Leni Riefenstahl was a fascinating character who walked a precarious line throughout WWII in Germany, however for me it reads more like the story of the the lives, relationships and friendships between Kim Newlands, Connie Dalton and Alun Pryce - with Leni playing a tumultuous part in their lives. 
There is an underlying theme of who new what during WWII, which is interesting.
The ending was disappointing, both the storyline of Kim, Connie and Alun and that of Leni feel unfinished, but it is still an enjoyable read.

I was given a copy of The Dictator's Muse by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
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I enjoyed this book very much. Historical fiction featuring real people is a favourite of mine, as is anything to do with Naziism and British Fascism. Leni Riefenstahl is a great character to base a book around  and this is well written and with a good storyline and it is another hit from Nigel Farndale. With thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for an e-ARC of this title.
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I loved this book. Dark and dangerous, atmospheric and wonderfully descriptive, this is a definite page turner. 

The characters are engaging, with plenty of depth. They draw you in, taking you from high to low and back again, on an emotional roller coaster ride, throughout their greatest triumphs and darkest moments. 

Gripping all the way, from beginning to end, I couldn't put it down. A fantastic addition to my bookshelf
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