Red Letter Days

Berkley. Feb. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780451475572. pap. $17. F
Phoebe Adler has always dreamed of making it as a screenwriter, but as the Red Scare sweeps 1950s America she gets unexpectedly caught up in its net. Not knowing who has accused her of communist leanings or on what grounds, Phoebe flees to London rather than answer the subpoena that could mean prison and the inability to care for her ailing sister. In London, she meets Hannah Wolfson, a television producer secretly employing blacklisted writers on her newest series, a subtly subversive take on the Robin Hood legend. Stratford returns to the London setting of her first historical novel, Radio Girls, for another story of pioneering women wielding the power of media to stand up for what they believe is right. The parts of the story that carry the most emotional heft—Phoebe’s relationship with her sister, a budding romance—unfortunately get short shrift in the rushed conclusion, but Stratford’s well-researched tale is full of intriguing historical tidbits and cameos by figures of the era (gossip columnist Hedda Hopper’s big scene is particularly well done).
VERDICT Recommended for fans of Fiona Davis and Renee Rosen and stories of young women fighting for professional success and personal happiness in a big-city setting.

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