Radio Girls tells the story of Maisie Musgrave, a young woman who secures a job at the upstarting British Broadcasting Corporation as a secretary and her journey to overseeing more than she ever imagined. This reads as a relatively light historical fiction novel, though the author adds in some post-war drama and conspiracy theories to keep the pace moving. The true standout factor in this book is the story of Hilda Matheson, a real woman immortalized in character form here, whose story was far more interesting and compelling than anything Maisie does. Although Maisie is a fine character, it was Hilda, the director of Talks programming, who made this book interesting enough for me to finish. In fact, as I was working through the book I stopped to read Hilda’s Wikipedia entry more than once, and almost wished the book had been about her struggle alone rather than as the mentor to Maisie. While I completely understand why Hilda as a mentoring figure to a young, self-conscious woman was important, it occasionally bogged down some sections for me as I stopped caring about Maisie and wanted to skip ahead to the Hilda portions.
I read this as part of a book club and it was met with favorable reviews across the board. It’s a good, light read for a book club that still includes lots to discuss, but isn’t necessarily dark or dreary historical fiction. I would absolutely read something else by the author, and I found the time period and story of the beginnings of the BBC to be fascinating. The conspiracy subplot was a bit heavy handed at times, but didn’t take away from the novel, and my book club also loved drawing parallels to the feminism and LGBT situations in this book with those in our current times. A solid read that produces a solid discussion.
Title: Radio Girls
Author: Sarah-Jane Stratford
Three descriptors: Leisurely-Paced, accessible, informative