Summary and book reviews of Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe

Delayed Rays of a Star

by Amanda Lee Koe

Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe X
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2019, 400 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A dazzling debut novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women - Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl - cinema legends who lit up the twentieth century.

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world's first Chinese American star, playing for bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father's modest laundry; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director would first make her famous--then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women's lives. From Weimar Berlin to LA's Chinatown, from a seaside resort in East Germany to a luxury apartment on the Champs-Élysées, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, muse, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. And in the orbit of each star live secondary players--a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director--whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours.

Amanda Lee Koe's playful, wry prose guides the reader dexterously around murky questions of ego, persona, complicity, desire, and difference. Intimate and raw, Delayed Rays of a Star is a visceral depiction of womanhood--its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals--and announces a bold new literary voice.

1

Before she crossed the ballroom to ask the Chinese woman for a dance, Marlene unloosed a curl from the crown of her finger wave, letting it fall across her forehead. It was a habit, now mostly unmindful, that she had acquired for herself as a schoolgirl, every time she wanted the attention of a classmate or the teacher.

Even from where she had been standing, Marlene could smell the fresh magnolia tucked behind the Chinese woman's left ear whenever she moved, which was often. This woman was cutting up the foxtrot, polka, and waltz, even as gouty gents swathed in silky cummerbunds trod on her toes, shod not in shoes but dance slippers, and so providing a winsome view of the high arch of her foot. To be sure, Marlene did not know if it was more that she wanted to dance with the woman, or to be together with her at the center of attention. The most satisfying thing about going with the moment was not having to wait to find out, but a pomaded, middle-aged man had stuck his cane out just ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Delayed Rays of a Star explores the facades people adopt for the survival of their private and public selves. It examines how surface impressions and imagery can be both dangerous and vital. The loose structure of the novel, which at times appears haphazard, may not be to some readers' tastes. But this wandering is part of its magic. Like the cinematic professionals she features, Koe seeks to create an immersive tone and style that speaks for itself, and she succeeds.   (Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Full Review Members Only (731 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Very occasionally, the inclusion of the famous characters' biographies reads like a Wikipedia entry; more often, however, the details of each woman's life and work are fully integrated into an exploration of her inner life...Readers will find much to ponder in these vivid, fictionalized deep dives into three women who changed cinema.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
For a novel so dense with historical fact and larger-than-life celebrity cameos...its portrayals are nuanced enough that each character comes off as deeply human regardless of their fame or importance to the novel's plot...Expansive, complex, and utterly engrossing.

Author Blurb Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
This is a voraciously intelligent, heartrending novel. Few books have so much life in them, or are so willing to explore the terrors of war and desire, the ruthlessness of genius. Maybe this novel can face the dark so fearlessly because it is itself so radiant, a blazing star. Amanda Lee Koe is a brilliant writer.

Author Blurb Tash Aw, author of The Harmony Silk Factory
In this swirling, brilliant debut, both the famous and the unknown struggle to navigate the tides of history. Cultures collide, horizons appear, worlds collapse. Filled with hope and desperation, Amanda Lee Koe's novel is a timely and timeless inquiry into what it means to be a woman, and a human being, in a universe that often seems not to care.

Author Blurb Ben Metcalf, author of Against the Country
Delayed Rays of a Star is a big, globetrotting, time-traveling wonder of a novel that made me laugh and in a hundred other ways appreciate the playful brilliance of Amanda Lee Koe. This is literature to feast upon and share, and a bold new voice to celebrate.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Anna May Wong

Black and white publicity still of Anna May WongAnna May Wong was a Chinese-American film star who worked in the entertainment industry from the 1920s to the 1960s. As a person of color, she experienced limitations in the roles she was able to play throughout her career due to discrimination and typecasting. Many recognize her today as an overlooked icon.

Wong was born in 1905 to Chinese-American parents in Los Angeles. She began her career in Alla Nazimova's 1919 film The Red Lantern, where she played an extra. She would go on to snag the lead in the 1922 silent film The Toll of the Sea, an adaptation of Madame Butterfly that was the first general release film in two-color Technicolor.

Within the industry, Wong had to contend with numerous obstacles due to her Chinese heritage, ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Delayed Rays of a Star, try these:

  • The Secrets We Kept jacket

    The Secrets We Kept

    by Lara Prescott

    Published 2019

    About this book

    A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice--inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

  • Costalegre jacket

    Costalegre

    by Courtney Maum

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Sinuous and striking, heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is heavily inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Acclaimed author Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for except for a ...

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everything Inside
    Everything Inside
    by Edwidge Danticat
    Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer, and Haiti looms large as a presence in this ...
  • Book Jacket: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket: Marilou Is Everywhere
    Marilou Is Everywhere
    by Sarah Elaine Smith
    "The point is that at that moment in my life," writes the narrator of Sarah Elaine Smith's debut ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Yale Needs Women
    by Anne Gardiner Perkins

    A tale of courage in the face of arrogance that remains eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson

A story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Chase Darkness with Me

How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

S S A C A Big S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.