The Dictator’s Muse

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

From the bestselling author of The Blasphemer, shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and a Richard & Judy Bookclub Pick

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…


‘A great achievement…remarkable.’ Melvyn Bragg

‘A book that won’t leave your fingernails intact’ Daily Mail

‘A fine novel…unforgettable.’ The Times

‘Beautiful…exhilarating.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘A constantly engaging and witty novel from a tremendously clever writer.’ Telegraph

© Nigel Farndale 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • [A] riveting novel… a fast-paced, brilliantly constructed thriller, in which the fates of the three young British protagonists hang in the balance at the end of every chapter. The period detail is as sharply focussed as one of Riefenstahl’s own films.

    A. N. Wilson, SPECTATOR
  • [A] richly evocative historical novel.

  • Fascinating… Farndale’s panoramic view of pre-war German society on the verge of irreparable change is persuasively evoked.

  • A novel rich in historical detail, but wearing its research lightly, and the story is told in a French Lieutenant’s Woman kind of way, veering from the present to the past with superb flair. With the rise of the alt right again polluting our democracies, this novel has an uncomfortable prescience, with a plot twist at the end which is ingenious.

  • Enthralling… profound and moving, this is a beautifully written evocation of turbulent times.


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