Last Night at the Telegraph Club was one of the choice for Book Coven book club in April. I didn’t really know anything about the story before picking it up, but it taught me about a period in history I didn’t know much about. The book is an interesting perspective on what it was like to be American-born Chinese in the 1950s, along with the LGBTQ+ community.
Star rating: 4 stars
Lily Hu is our protagonist, a 17 year old girl discovering her sexuality for the first time. She’s spent her whole life so far being a good Chinese girl, dressing sensibly and hanging out with her parent-approved best friend Shirley. But when Lily discovers the Telegraph Club, she starts to learn more about who she really is, befriending Kath, the other girl in Advanced Math at school and being true to herself for the first time.
I really enjoyed Lily’s desire to work in the space industry and her passion for mathematics and physics. It definitely wasn’t easy for woman in STEM back then, so it was good to see this representation. I loved that Kath appreciated Lily’s passions and understood wanting to work in a male dominated field with ambitions to be a pilot herself. This is in contrast to Shirley and her friends, who Lily starts to feel really separated from the more she spends time with Kath.
Communism is also featured in the book, though not heavily. As mentioned in the blurb, Lily’s Dad is threatened with deportation for being a suspected communist sympathiser, but this isn’t explored in much detail with the book choosing to focus more on the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in the time period. There are also some historical flashbacks from the perspective of the adults in the story which added to the richness of the time period.
Overall, I feel this book was very well written – Malinda’s writing voice was a perfect match for the story she told which made it an addictive read, particularly as the plot progressed.