“Radio Girls” by Sarah-Jane Stratford
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Release Date: April 14, 2016
Page Length: 384 pages (electronic review edition)
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 gives readers an inside look at the BBC in the 1920s. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes of how radio operated in the past as well as the hustle and bustle that goes on within each department. It turns out there is a lot of work that goes into creating a show and obtaining guest speakers for radio than I ever knew before. Though Maisie’s role in the BBC starts out as a typist, she eventually grows beyond this initial position as she becomes more acquainted with radio. Maisie gets to sit in on Talks rehearsals, complete transcripts for various shows, go on errands for highly revered people, and meets many influential people.
Maisie is quite a naive character at the beginning of the story. She’s not doing well financially, and she puts all of her effort into getting a job at the BBC since she needs a job. Though she is very insecure at the beginning of the story, Maisie grows into a more confident person. Through her journey at the BBC she learns how to let the little things go in life and how to focus more on what’s best for her. Maisie’s journey is centered around the theme of finding yourself which I thought was relatable to many readers. Most people strive to find their niche in life, not only to survive in the working world, but to also find passion in something they enjoy.
I enjoyed reading about the BBC and appreciated that the main character is developed as well as the other lead/supporting characters featured. The departments and people of the BBC personalities blend to create a colorful cast of characters and environment making it feel realistic. The story is overall moderately paced and there is an air of suspense in the novel as Maisie dabbles in some investigative journalism.
I also enjoyed the mentor-mentee relationship between Hilda and Maisie. Hilda helps Maisie to grow in her work as a radio journalist and find her place in the BBC. She also helps to nurture Maisie’s self-discovery process in finding her passion in life. Maisie looks up to Hilda as a source of inspiration because of her knowledge and constant encouragement.
While reading the novel, I felt that Stratford did a lot of research into the creation process for this book. It shows that she put some extensive work into the attention and detail of the speech, world events, people, and society of 1920s England. Most of the information is based on historical facts and real life people such as Hilda Matheson (whom the novel is based around) who was the first Talks director of the BBC. These small details not only make the story seem accurate, but it also helps to fully immerse the reader into the past.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Recommended for fans of historical fiction!
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.