I was lucky enough to meet the author at several events and talks at the Oxford Historical Novelist Society. Inspired by his passion for inspired writing and for his book’s subject I purchased “Marlene” and got it signed.
The book (hardcover) is a real treasure, with a stunning cover and high quality paper. What I thought would be a biography proved to be a highly engaging first person narrative novel in which Marlene (Maria Magdalene) bares all from childhood to the end of the war.
The prose flows perfectly, with impeccable use of German and French dialogue and lean words thrown in. There’s a strong flair of authenticity and credibility, even though I understand minor artistic licences have been taken.
I remember Germany’s divided reaction to Marlene’s passing in the 1990s and that is beautifully reflected in the portrayal of a woman with an ambiguous relationship to her beloved country.
Gortner builds up the character slowly, with much time given to her childhood and first loves, first good and bad influences and the slow start to her career.
Fictionalising the events by inventing dialogue and some of the scenes is a risky undertaking but in this case it worked out very well, having me glued to the pages in the middle of some personal deadlines, promising myself to only read a few more pages of the next chapter.
As German native with my own love and ambiguity to my estranged homecountry, I may be able to relate to the story on a very personal level. Yet, the novel is obviously well researched, based on facts and a labour of love.
It’s rare to find such passion and knowledge twinned with creative writing. If you look for a biography that is alive and re-creates the persona of its subjects, then Gortner’s work is for you.
Marlene is a truly magnificent novel. Highly recommended.
He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him atwww.cwgortner.com for more information.