My rating: 4 of 5 stars
They say never to judge a book by its cover of which I might have been a touch guilty of. I thought this was going to be yet another romantic novel. I was wrong and ever so grateful to be so. This is a historical fiction piece set between World War One and World War Two, about real people told from a fictional characters point of view.
Radio Girls follows the career of Maisie Musgrave from 1926-1932. When we first meet her she is down to her last week of money for food and shelter. By sheer luck she is awarded a job as the secretary of the Director General at the fledgling BBC Radio; this was to be her saving grace. We follow the journey of Maisie as she matures from Mousy Maisie to a real risk taker, investigative journalist and finally a producer working in the Talks Department. We see the clash of ideals where women were caught between traditional values and a world opening up to them of freedom and equality. Ostensibly about Maisie, this book is truly about Hilda Matheson, the first Director of Talks, a fascinating and remarkable character, who was a MI5 agent during World War One and responsible for the BBC becoming such a stalwart of information for the masses.
Stratford has written a compelling novel that takes us to a time in history when things were in turmoil and life was changing. She manages to bring alive a period when attitudes were changing as were expectations of life. It touches on a myriad of topics from contraception, women being granted the right to vote and sexuality, including attitudes towards homosexuality. It looks at the growing feminist movement and touches on the suffrage movement to win women the right to vote. The story never drags and the characters are finely drawn. In the story we see the development of the Talks Department and the growth of the British Nazi Party in the UK. There is a touch of romance in the story, but it is part of moving the mystery forward rather than a distraction.
Entertaining; a really great read.