Delayed Rays of a Star

Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Jul. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9780385544344. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385544351. F
DEBUT Three women whose lives revolve around celluloid film are photographed together at a 1928 Berlin nightclub. They include Leni Riefenstahl, the actress and movie director who made films approved by Hitler and Goebbels; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star; and popular box office hit and Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich. Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her story collection, Ministry of Moral Panic, first novelist Koe uses that photograph to explore important periods in the lives of these three women. Their personal issues become more broadly significant as we read about the racism facing Wong, the horrible fascist taint that Riefenstahl could not escape, and the decline from stardom and eventual ravages of aging endured by the narcissistic Dietrich.
VERDICT Koe’s flawless and enchanting writing draws readers directly into the lives and times of these women as well as the minor characters in this superb novel. Book discussion groups will enjoy devouring this fantastic debut. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]
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