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Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren…
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Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Hero (edition 2012)

by Terry Frei

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1510647,891 (3.86)2
Member:angela.vaughn
Title:Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Hero
Authors:Terry Frei
Info:Taylor Trade Publishing (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Hero by Terry Frei

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Subtitled "A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Hero," Olympic Affair is a fascinating piece of historical fiction based on a true story - the love affair between American decathlete Glenn Morris and famous German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. The two met during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, which is better known for Jesse Owens than this story. I'd never heard of Morris before this book.

Although she claimed she was not a member of the Nazi party, former actress Riefenstahl had made some controversial pro-Nazi films, such as Triumph of the Will, and was definitely close to Hitler and his cohorts. She was at the Olympics to make the documentary Olympia. Morris went on to short careers in the NFL and in Hollywood. Frei implies the latter was due to Riefenstahl giving him the idea that he could be a big star. He starred in one film, Tarzan's Revenge (along with another former Olympian, 1932 backstroke gold medalist Eleanor Holm), that flopped.

Later in her life, Riefenstahl admitted the relationship, expressing sadness that they did not continue it. Morris seemed to have grounds for more regret, given that the affair may have broken up his later marriage to his pre-Olympics sweetheart, and pretty much ruined his life. A small-town boy from Colorado, Morris comes off as rather naive in the book, which he probably was.

Author Terry Frei is a sports columnist for the Denver Post. The book is well-researched, and includes a bibliography and an extensive author's note at the end that tells what's true and what's not. I thought the book was a little long, and that some of the repetitious detail about the pre-Olympic practices could have been left out. Some of the conversations seem a little stilted, especially those with the supposed U.S. governmental agents who meet with Morris about Riefenstahl.

Nevertheless, I'd recommend this book, especially for sports fans. It was interesting to read about how the 1936 Olympic team was chosen, its journey by ship to Berlin, (most of) the pre-competition practices and recreational activities, the competitions themselves, and the follow-up track meets across Europe. Even reading about what happened to the oak seedlings gold medalists were given at the 1936 Games was interesting.

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, in exchange for an honest review. It will be given to either my university or my local public library. This review also appears on my blog, Bookin' It.] ( )
3 vote riofriotex | Feb 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and US Olympic hopeful Glenn Morris meet at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. With tensions on the rise between the two countries, can love blind them to world events going on around them?

Glenn Morris, small town athlete from Simla, Colorado, arrives in Berlin with high hopes, but he gets much more than he bargained for when he meets actress turned Nazi film propagandist, Leni Riefenstahl. Their feelings for each other grow over the course of the Olympics; Leni is tasked with documenting all aspects of the games for Adolf Hitler. Is she merely doing as she is told or does she too share the views of her ‘boss’? Can love conquer all?

I enjoyed this book! I knew a little about the Olympics games that came upon the eve of war but this was one aspect I was unfamiliar with! Great combination of history and a riveting love story… Would highly recommend to anyone interesting in world events, particularly Nazi propaganda. ( )
  Shuffy2 | Feb 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The non-fiction book written as a novel has become very popular ever since the success of Devil in the White City and author Terry Frei has apparently written several sports oriented books in this vein. This one, about the relationship between the 1936 Olympic Decathlon gold medal winner, Glenn Morris and film maker Leni Riefenstahl also falls into this category.

Morris was a handsome small-town college athlete from Colorado when he became a sensation as a star Olympic competitor. He caught the eye of Riefenstahl and the two had an affair during the games and a little while afterwards. Morris apparently naively thought that he could have a relationship with the film maker despite her acknowledged coziness with Adolph Hitler. In fact, throughout this book, Morris appears to be well meaning, but not too bright while Riefenstahl appears to be almost a character of a Wagnerian Brunhilda with a high dose of conniving manipulation thrown in.

While emminently readable, in the final assessment, this story doesn't work. The story, mostly told in dialogue comes off as far-fetched. Would Reifenstahl & high level Nazis really be casually throwing around terms like asshole & fuck in conversation? How in bed with the Nazis was the American Olympic Committee as well as the IOC? If a work is going to be noon-fiction, let's have it annotated & footed properly. If it's going to be a "based-on" novel, let's be realistic about that.

Mostly this book makes me want to read an annotated and footed work on this subject so I can see what is really true and what isn't. I think that speaks to the fact that this is a fascinating subject, but not to the reliability of this author. ( )
  etxgardener | Feb 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An Olympic Affair is a confusing narrative that combines fiction with non-fiction. Unfortunately, Terry Frei has a knack for fiction-writing that becomes lost in the torturous day-by-day accounts of schedules and interviews that are, while historically accurate depictions of the lives of Leni Riefenstahl and Glenn Morris, also horribly tedious. There was no lack of research done for this novel, but the speculative bits and pieces of Glenn and Leni’s affair shines through brilliantly making the facts dull and boring.

Frei cites several sources for research, all of which in their own way are flawed or biased. And of course given the time - 1936 Berlin, the rise of the National Socialist Party and Hitler - it is expected that every account of what happened should be biased in some way. There is an argument to be made that, no matter when, all accounts of the activities of “celebrities” are biased. However, that’s where this novel shines. Leni Riefenstahl’s work - her films - was considered propaganda by many for the positive view of Hitler it portrayed. But here the reader has the chance to make up his/her own mind about Leni and to whom she was truly loyal. The theme of the book is Glenn Morris trying to figure out his role in Leni’s world after he competes in the Olympics, which perfectly encapsulates the idea that basically no one, not even the people who thought they were close to her, knew what side she was on: if she was really a Nazi.

Historically this novel perfectly summarizes the conflicting emotions of someone caught up in Nazi propaganda versus someone meant to represent America. There is patriotism on both sides, but is that all that keeps them apart?

Aside from overly-researched sections, this novel touches on the emotional aspects of having ones life turned upside-down in just a few weeks. The romance aspect, if you can call it that, is a delicious departure from the dull bookends of fact-upon-fact to start and conclude the story. ( )
  Gwnfkt12 | Jan 30, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Frei's creative use of dialog keeps the action moving forward. This is much more interesting than a dry recital of facts. The threatening war with Germany is an ever-present issue complicating the agenda of the Olympic competition, and the athletes do their best to show their comradeship, appreciation, and unity with competitors from around the world.
Leni Reifenstahl, making a film about the 1936 Olympics in Germany, has her own agenda which includes developing a relationship with one of the American athletes.
Two questions came up as I read: How did Frei get information about CIA involvement (or whatever office the unnamed men were associated with)?
Given her depiction of Negroes as primitive animals, what changes lead Leni to live with African tribes in her later years? And I am motivated to read a biography of Jesse Owens, given a fair amount of coverage in this book, to compare his thoughts and motivations with those ascribed to him by Frei.
(Review based on an Early Reviewers copy) ( )
  juniperSun | Jan 28, 2013 |
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To Dr. Morris Ververs, for his considerable help and his quest to keep alive the memory of Glenn Morris.
To Tony Phifer, for his friendship and for planting the idea.
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The cook squinted at the ticket on the wheel facing him, pretending to be deciphering the handwritten lunch order.
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