Monday, May 30, 2016
The Great War is over, and change is in the air, in this novel that brings to life the exciting days of early British radio…and one woman who finds her voice while working alongside the brilliant women and men of the BBC.
London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity.
Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.
Radio Girls is the story of the early days the BBC as they used radio to broadcast to the nation. The time is post-WW1, with the ground work being laid for pre-WW2 conflicts. Maisie Musgrave lands a job as a secretary at the BBC and finds herself drawn into the seductive world of broadcasting. Working for the Director of the BBC, John Reith as well as Hilda Matheson, the director of the Talks programming, Maisie finds herself learning vastly different opinions of how the BBC should be run and how radio should be used.
The director doesn't love women working and has an aversion to those he considers immoral. Hilda, loves bringing in the famous writers and scientists of the day; some of whom are homosexual, which takes away nothing from their knowledge or ability to present, but is something that the Director hates.
As Maisie moves between the Director's office and the Talks office, she learns the inner workings of the BBC, she makes friends, and she discovers that everyone harbors secrets. While becoming involved in the suffrage movement, Maisie also learns the ways of investigative journalism as she uncovers German propaganda and conspiracies.
When I saw the synopsis for Radio Girls, I was somewhat curious. Who doesn't love Historical Fiction based on fact? I think it's one of the best ways to learn about history. As I began the book, it was a bit slow in capturing my attention, but as I moved deeper into the story, I found myself captivated.
While I recognized many names of real life individuals as they were brought in to give Talks presentations, I did not realize at first that Hilda Matheson and John Reith were real people. The author's note at the end gives a fantastic summary, sharing what is real and what is fictional.
I adored Maisie and loved watching her grow from an unsure young girl into a poised woman, ready to take on the world. Hilda, with her prickly, but brilliant nature and Reith, with his bluster and bravado, were each their own kind of enigma.
Historically, rich and colorful, the novel as a whole was a fascinating look into 1920s London. Thoroughly enjoyed and easily recommended.
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah-Jane Stratford here. You can purchase your own copy here.
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