Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Radio Girls: A Book Review

Fans of Downton Abbey were made aware of the sweeping changes that washed over England after the First World War, ushering in an era of modern flappers and somewhat liberated women. RADIO GIRLS is a natural offshoot of that theme.

Maisie is the plucky heroine of the novel, making her way in the world after a difficult childhood filled with bullying and parental disinterest. She lands at the BBC as the radio service is just starting to grow, and over the course of the narrative she grows in wisdom and comes out of her shell.

But wait, there's more!

Maisie and her boss, the indomitable Hilda (based on the actual Hilda Matheson), tackle misogyny and general discrimination with steely resolve, making their marks on BBC programming in a way unheard of for women of the day. The author lays the mysogyny on a bit thick and it gets tiresome, but let the heavy application of sexism roll past your eyes and concentrate on a well-crafted bit of prose.

While fighting for the opportunity to rise up the ranks, Maisie blunders into a remarkable scoop and is soon involved in a shadowy bit of espionage thanks to HIlda, who may or may not be involved in MI5. Fascism was indeed on the rise in the 1920s and Maisie discovers evidence of upper-class involvement in a plot to take over the newspapers and the BBC so that all media could become a venue for spreading fascist propaganda.

The author tries a little too hard to equate our modern conservative politicians to the budding fascists in a way that pulls a reader out of the story, like hitting a speed bump when the ride is otherwise smooth. Other than that minor flaw, the story uses real-life characters and imagines the story behind the early years of the BBC, where women could find employment on an almost equal footing as men.

Readers looking for well-told historical fiction will enjoy this one.

Thansks once again to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read an advanced review copy.

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