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Radio Girls: 10/13/16

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

For the past four months, Maisie and Hilda have been my lunchtime companions. I had a copy of Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford on my iPhone and I read it leisurely over lunch, taking in a chapter or sometimes two nearly every day. I chose the book because the title immediately brought to mind fond memories of when I was working remotely with clients in Texas and had to get up early. My day began with the BBC weather report and ended with the broadcast chiming of midnight.

The book is a historical fiction profile of Hilda Matheson, the director of Talks (until her resignation in 1931). Matheson, though, is seen through the eyes of her personal secretary, Maisie Musgrave. Maisie is Canadian by way of New York — though she hates being mistaken for an American.

Through Maisie's earliest days as a typist through working directly with Hilda we learn about the BBC and the early days of broadcasting. Once upon a time the BBC wasn't the world respected powerhouse that it is now. In its youth it had to tread carefully to avoid offending people and to avoid treading on the toes print media.

It's not just about the business of radio or of reporting the news. It's also about how a person can grow given enough encouragement and freedom. Of course having a well educated, revolutionary mentor helps too. While Maisie doesn't strive to be Hilda, she does emulate her as she finds her own strengths as a BBC Talks person.

In the background of Maisie's growth, there is the Depression, the opening up of the vote to all British women, and the rise of the SS in Germany. In this regard, Stratford's novel is eerily relevant against a contentious presidential election with the Republication nominee having ties to Russia, the rampant racism and xenophobia, and the misogynistic reaction to a woman being the Democratic nominee.

Five stars

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