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 both 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.
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Interesting setting, Less interesting protagonist
This story about the beginnings of BBC radio, radio in general, and the changing times surrounding this period is interesting and provides insight to time most of us do not know. The historical detail and period sense were strong and clearly well researched.
The author chose a fictional protagonist to center the story and unfortunately that character is not as strong as the story. She stammers and hesitates throughout the first half of the book, starting every sentence with "Uh" or "Well" and usually both. After dozens and dozens of these, I literally yelled at her in the car one day "Just SAY it". So brace yourself for that.
However, the story and historical period are interesting and little known. You can't help but think of parallels in technology breakthroughs today as you read and the perspective this story provides is striking. We can't understand the impact of some technologies early on because we can't imagine the enabling environment -- just as Gutenberg probably couldn't foresee universal literacy.
So an interesting story and period, peopled by some remarkable historical figures, but with a protagonist that can grate on your nerves -- not so much because of her views and assumptions (which reflect the period) but because of personal quirks.
- Ruth Bain