Red Letter Days

Sarah-Jane Stratford. Berkley, $17 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-451-47557-2
In this crisp novel, Stratford (Radio Girls) follows two woman writers who flee to London to escape McCarthy-era repression in the United States. The political drama is based on the true-life creator of the ’50s TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, Hannah Weinstein, who headed her own production company in London in 1950. Here she’s Hannah Wolfson, and her Sapphire Films becomes a shelter for blacklisted American writers. The heart of the story, however, belongs to fictional Phoebe Adler, whose support for unions as a factory worker during WWII were ratted out to the House of Un-American Activities Committee, forcing her to leave a burgeoning career in radio, and her adored older sister, Mona, whose medical care depends on Phoebe’s paycheck. Though Phoebe finds work and friendship overseas, there’s no safety. An FBI “hound” follows her, and Hollywood gossip queen—and infamous commie-hater—Hedda Hopper, stalks the studio in a hiss-worthy cameo. The romantic landscape is no less fraught: Phoebe is wary of the attention of British teacher Reg Bassill, who is smitten with her wisecracking New York wit. Phoebe’s hair-raising escape from HUAC’s condemnation offers a James Bond–like finish to Stratford’s bracing adventure that effortlessly melds politics, romance, and history. This delivers on every level. Agent: Margaret O’Connor, Innisfree Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/07/2019
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Fiction
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