Before getting into the review proper, I’d like to mention that my buddy L gave me Radio Girls at book swap we had at my former office. It was pretty fun – everyone at our place of business brought in some books to swap or give away during a random lunch break. It’s special to have your friends’ copies of books, and in some cases even their marginalia or notes inside of books. So, I’d recommend having a lunch break book swap.
[Very minor spoilers below – no more than the back cover of the book.]
Radio Girls is a true-ish piece of historical fiction set at the BBC in the 1920s and 1930s. I say “true-ish” because it is worth noting from the get-go that real historical figures such as Hilda Matheson and John Reith are featured heavily. However, there’s a lot of “-ish” in there, as welll: the protagonist, the fantastic Maisie Musgrave, and large portions of the plot, are made up. However, what fun it it is to learn about the real people behind the fictional characters.
The novel itself is also a lot of fun. Maisie Musgrave is a quiet if not taciturn Canadian-American living in London. She’s gone to secretary school, and she was a nurse during the Great War. She lands a very low-level job at the new BBC radio organization. She begins as a secretary for Mr. John Reith, the Director General of the BBC. She also doubles as a secretary for the Talks division, working for the (REAL!) Hilda Matheson. Both the conservative Reith and the progressive Matheson are forces of nature, and over several years Mousie Maisie comes into her own at the BBC. Along the way she makes good friends, meets some boys, and, oh yeah, uncovers SOME DEADLY INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACIES because Maisie can do anything.
While the plot is good fun (and it is good fun), the characterization and warm setting make this book. I can see why it’s so popular. One of my favorite reads of the year thus far, and not a bad representation of my buddy L, either!