Cover Image: Red Letter Days

Red Letter Days

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Member Reviews

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to read/review this book due to other commitments.  I will certainly update this review if/when I have the chance to read the book.  Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy.
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This one sounded so good and I was really excited for it but I just couldnt get into it. I think it might be timing so I will def try again!
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I don't usually read historical fiction set in this 1950s time period so I wanted to try something new. I do however love reading historical fiction about strong women that popular history has too often forgotten and this book really delivered that. I knew about the Red Scare really only from school so it was fascinating to see it play out in characters lives, show how fear and misplaced power could ruin everything for innocent people. The atmosphere of this book and unique story matter was great, even if the pacing lagged a bit (a common problem for this genre though).
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Although the pacing was a little slow, I really enjoyed reading about an era I was too young to remember, that of the fear of communism and the rise of Senator McCarthy. Focusing on two women who wanted to write and produce it showed how fear ruled and ruined so many lives when their names appeared on blacklists.
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Checking the box for another historical fiction read that makes me so grateful for this genre. I really enjoyed getting to read about the Red Scare and Hollywood blacklist here, a topic I’ve not come across in historical fiction before. It always feels like a treasure to find these kinds of books in the genre that expands my knowledge and/or open my eyes to something new. The author does a really great job of immersing you in the situations at hand, and writes about the topic with great detail. What a tragic time, though it was so hopeful to think there were people like our strong, wonderful main characters who took a stand in any way they could and supported one another through the time.

The only downfall here for me was the pacing which was on the slower side, and while that isn’t always an issue for me, in this case I feel like it caused a disconnect in the story (particularly the middle portion) and I found myself loosing interest throughout. It was as if the story could have been cut much shorter yet still said  everything it needed to.

Regardless, I’m still glad I picked this one up and would say it’s a worthwhile read for hist fic lovers, especially if this is a topic you’re already interested in or maybe don’t know much about!

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Pub for the gifted copy.
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It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I was utterly hooked and couldn’t put it down. In fact, it’s one of those books that feels a little too long at the beginning but then is suddenly too short and you wish it would continue for another two-hundred pages.

Phoebe Adler (a writer in 1950s New York) finds herself on the communist ‘Black List’ despite being apolitical and is fired from her job as a screen-writer. It's hard enough for women to get coveted writing jobs in the '50s but being on the Black List makes it impossible. She ends up fleeing to London and trying to start over under a fake name, amidst of motley crew of other on-the-run Black Listers. Her troubles (and the FBI) end up following her though.

I love a good historical fiction, and I’ve found myself thinking about the story and the characters frequently in the week since I finished it.
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Set in the 1950s, “Red Letter Days” brings forth a time in history that readers don’t know much about. I learned about the “Red Scare” in a high school history class, but I don’t remember the teacher dwelling on it, so it was interesting to read this novel about how so many people were blacklisted during the McCarthy era.
The author was inspired by the story of Hannah Weinstein, an American TV producer who ended up leaving Hollywood for London, where she hired blacklisted writers, at personal risk to herself.
In the novel, Phoebe Adler is one of the young television writers who gets caught up in the witch hunt. She is fired and decides to flee to London while she can. She has no job waiting for her, so Phoebe isn’t sure what will happen. But, luckily for her, Hannah Wolfson hires her, although she must work under an assumed name.
I learned a lot about post-war London life as well as what it might have been like for the many people who were labeled Communists.
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From the author of Radio Girls, this is the story of 2 women trying to escape McCarthy-era Hollywood,  Phoebe, a screenwriter and Hannah, a journalist turned television producer, who both fled the US for London when targeted as the fear of Communism grew.
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I thought this was such a great book. Once I got started it was hard to put down. I like the plot and characters of the story. I thought Phoebe and Hannah were dynamite and strong characters. It was interesting to read about the red scare during the 1950s where a lot of Hollywood writers, directors, and actors who were blacklisted. I was hooked on the story about how Hannah who lived in London will hire blacklisted writers from America to write episodes for Robin Hood. I liked how this book ended and was surprise that Hannah was based off of a real person and now I want to do my own research on it.
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Red Letter Days is a fictional account of two women whose lives intersect during the McCarthy-era hearings. Post World War II, there is a growing faction of politicians who fear Americans turning Communist, and put them on trial, demanding that they name names of communists. Hollywood is hit especially hard, with many actors, writers, and directors being blacklisted.

Phoebe Adler is a lesser-known writer of detective dramas, living and working in New York. When she is blacklisted and subpoenaed, she hops across the pond to London to escape and find work. She does so with the encouragement of Mona, her terminally-ill sister living in a sanitarium, whom she supports financially.

While in London, Phoebe meets Hannah Wolfson, television producer and pioneer. Hannah hires her to be a script girl, and eventually hires her as a writer for her newest television show. Hannah purposely hires blacklisted professionals, allowing them to work under an assumed name. Although the characters seem to be experiencing success, Phoebe and Hannah soon realize they are not safe from the witch hunt. Someone is following them. Intertwined with the political events of the day are subplots of romance, betrayal, friendships, and mortality. These other stories enhanced the main themes and plot.

This historical fiction novel is well-researched and enjoyable to read. The pacing is excellent and it wasn’t predictable. It’s my first novel by this author, but it won’t be my last. Thank you to NetGalley for an e-proof of this book.
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This was the perfect read to kick off Women’s History Month. This was an informative story about the red scare, the entertainment business, and two women who stood strong. Phoebe Adler is a young woman living in New York working as a television writer when she finds herself on the “blacklist“. With no ties to communism and a sister who is ill and depending on her, Phoebe does not know what to do when she is summoned to appear in front of Congress. Urged on by her sister and with no other options Phoebe heads to London. In London she finds refuge with other exiled Americans and starts working for Hannah Wolfson. Hannah is a producer who hires blacklisted writers and directors to work on her current television project Robin Hood. Phoebe lands a job as the script girl and has an opportunity to write a Robin Hood episode. But Senator McCarthy and the FBI’s power is far reaching and it might just be a matter of time before Phoebe’s luck runs out.

    This was a story about a part of history I really know very little of and I found it so disturbing and unfortunate. It is crazy that people were accused of being communist for virtually no reason at all other than they might have once upon a time had a red thought. The story was so well researched and I really appreciated that, however it never really completely pulled me in. I really liked Phoebe and I felt for her and I liked her relationship with her sister. But she was like a friend who keeps you at arms distance, she felt a little removed a bit detached. There was a strong bond between Phoebe and Hannah that I really liked, I just wanted a little more of that in the story. This is a well told, well researched story that lacked some emotion. I would recommend this for the true historical fiction reader. And don’t forget to read the authors note, it was really interesting how she came up with a story and how this is loosely based on real people

This book in emojis. 🧧📽🎬📞📺👭✈️🚢

*** Big thank you to Berkley Pub for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
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Sarah-Jane Stratford’s latest novel, Red Letter Days, is a riveting work of historical fiction that explores the McCarthy Era or “Red Scare”, a dark time in post World War II American history where fear and hysteria led to American citizens being persecuted as Communists, in many cases, without any evidence whatsoever.  Red Letter Days specifically focuses on how this Communist witchhunt impacted the Hollywood community and women, in particular.

Phoebe Adler, one of the story’s protagonists, is trying to make it as a television writer in a man’s world.  I loved Phoebe right from the start. She’s a New Yorker through and through. She’s smart, tough as nails, and she’s a talented writer who is passionate about her craft.  I got the vibe right away that if anyone could make it as a TV writer in the 50’s, it would be Phoebe.  Somehow, though, Phoebe finds herself on an ever-growing blacklist of Communist sympathizers and it costs her her job.  Devastated that she has lost everything and fearful of what else could befall her since so many have been arrested, Phoebe flees to London. It is in London where Phoebe meets the novel’s second protagonist, the formidable Hannah Wolfson.  I loved Hannah as well. Hannah, another American who has found herself living in exile in London, is brave, ambitious, and as a successful TV and film producer, she sees it as her mission to help blacklisted writers like Phoebe continue pursuing their passion by letting them write for her under assumed names.  Phoebe and Hannah hit it off right away and become close, but both of them know they are living in dangerous times and that everything they’re working for could come crashing down around them as the witchhunt continues to spread and reach beyond the shores of America.

I thoroughly enjoyed Red Letter Days.  In addition to these two wonderful protagonists who were so easy to root for. They are both the epitome of strength, resilience, and even defiance, as they fought to resist the Red Scare and its ever growing hysteria.   I also loved the focus on the camaraderie and support of those in exile and especially the growing friendship between Hannah and Phoebe.  If you’re interested in learning about how McCarthyism and the Red Scare impacted the entertainment writers’ community, I’d highly recommend Red Letter Days.  Red Letter Days is both a well-researched work of historical fiction and an incredibly suspenseful read.
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This book finds us in the mid-twentieth century, shortly after WWII when women went back to the home after building airplanes. The red scare is the dominant thrust of the story. We have two women as the points-of-view, both working with one married with two young kids, and one unmarried.  

A major undertone in the book, is women taking on working roles. We see both women attacked for being in the workforce, more so with Phoebe since she is unmarried.

There's action in the story, and despite all the excitement. I found the beginning of the book somewhat on a light breezy tone. I found that odd since the subject matter was anything but. Somehow it didn’t seem serious. As the book progressed that changed. Perhaps it was the main character, Phoebe who liked to make jokes, sort of the smart aleck type, the brainy type that often annoyed. I’m not entirely sure.

Overall I found the book to be well written and engaging. There were times when I had to put the book down, but was quite reluctant to do so.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s note at the end where she detailed what was taken from real life and the bits she made up to make this an interesting read.
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Hollywood during the 1950s was a dangerous place to be.    Writers, directors, and actors were all being watched.   There were accusations of communism being written into productions to corrupt America.    Some of those blacklisted fled to other countries hoping to be able to continue working.    This is the story of Phoebe Adler who was blacklisted, subpoenaed and fled to London hoping to find a way to make a living.    

I was not very familiar with this era in Hollywood but was intrigued at how quickly people pointed fingers just to save themselves and how quickly the American Government accepted those names without real proof and let others off the hook.  I was ashamed at how many Americans’ accepted this for the truth not bothering to find out what the whole story was.    I guess a time shortly after a war can change your outlook on life and your neighbors.  

Phoebe was brave to step out on her own, in a different world than she was used to, and without any support from her friends.   I love how she took chances, weighed her options, and managed to still be okay.   This was not the life she wanted, and she knew she had to be cautious but she still lived, loved, and made something of herself.     The people she met in London were willing to help her, protect her, and guide her on ways to keep herself safe and I love that she was accepted into their family of blacklisters.
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It’s the 1950s and up-coming TV screenwriter Phoebe Adler, is living her dream, until it all comes crashing down. She is accused of being a communist by the HUAC and to avoid naming names and being sent to jail, she escapes to London. Surrounded by other expats from the United States, she soon falls in with Hannah Wolfson who hires her for her new show. Hannah has adapted “The Adventures of Robin Hood” for television and is determined to hire blacklisted writers to help her. (The fictional character of Hannah Wolfson is based on real-life Hannah Weinstein who was a successful producer in both Great Britain and U.S.)  Meanwhile, Phoebe is stilled being hunted by an FBI agent, and she does not know whom she can really trust.

This is a fast-paced historical fiction novel of a dark time in US history. The story deals not only with the issues faced by American citizens being targeted for their beliefs and having their careers ruined. It also touches on the issues of the gay and lesbian community being forced to hide their relationships from society, employers and their own government. There are portrayals of women trying to find their way in male dominated industries and juggling both their careers and traditional duties of wife and mother. Even Hedda Hopper, an infamous commie-hater, makes a cameo in this novel. 

A well-researched and deftly plotted story, this is a fascinating look at a time period from the not too distant past. I highly recommend this novel for fans of historical fiction, or anyone interested in reading about the red-scare and the activities of the HUAC in the United States, as well as the pioneering efforts of the real Hannah Weinstein.
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3.5 stars

This wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it’d be, but honestly that was on me and not on this book.

Characters: ★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★

Quick take: Two women are trying to make their mark on the film industry of the 1950s during the Communist scare and the Hollywood blacklists that ensued as a result of the Red Menace.

Phoebe Adler is in New York, scratching out a living as a screenwriter for a mid-level detective TV show. Her shows have her name on the credits, but it's hard being a self-made woman after WWII, when the men have returned from the war and want their jobs back. Phoebe doesn't mind much, except for getting her name out there and making sure she's making enough money for her sick sister in the sanitorium, Mona. When the Red Menace comes knocking and Phoebe's world turns on its head, London may just be her saving grace.

Hannah Wolfson is an expatriate living in London. She's managed to create a production company and successfully be an executive producer in a male-dominated world—and her husband and kids support her. But when blacklisted writers and talent arrive in the UK and Hannah decides to risk it all and hire them, odds are something will fall through the new cracks.

This was such an immersive reading experience. Red Letter Days made me feel like I was in the 1950s, down to the prevalent mannerisms and details. It was harder for me to read the sexism—also a necessary element—because that's something I really dislike in my escapist fiction, but I thought the author did a fantastic job of conveying female agency amid those issues.

However, in general I struggled with the density of the descriptions and lack of driving pacing. Due to the fact that this novel is much more exploratory and reliant on slice-of-life, this was definitely a "me" problem. The author did a fantastic job of portraying the real life struggles of these women in real time. I think I just wanted more pizzazz, more intrigue—coming from a predominantly fantasy and mystery/thriller reader, hopefully that further explains my lackluster rating.

If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or old-school Hollywood a la The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, give this a go! The atmosphere is fantastic.

Thank you to Berkley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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I have read a few books about all the horrible things done to American citizens during the hysteria that was McCarthyism.  So, I thought I knew most everything about it.  But, Red Letter Days, by Sarah-Jean Stratford brings the unique perspective of how women were affected by America's Communist witch hunts.  The book was both fascinating and highly entertaining.

What I Liked:

Historical Details:

I really got a feel for the time period in this book.  There were so many details about the food, the clothing, and even how people used the telephone that I felt completely caught up in this era.

Characters:

I loved the two main characters, Phoebe, and Hannah.  Each one has a specific part to play in this book.  While Phoebe's journey is more about how she handles the restrictions of being blacklisted, Hannah's tale focuses on the barriers women had to overcome to have careers outside the home.  Both characters were gusty and fascinating.

The male characters were diverse in that many of them were not the standard misogynistic creeps we imagine.  There's Sydney, Hannah's associate producer.  I loved that he always treated Hannah with the respect she deserved.  And he was strictly business with Hannah, no fake romantic undertones.  

Phoebe, perhaps because she was not married, has a somewhat harder time with the men.  She runs into plenty of guys who think it's unnatural for a women to be working!  Sadly, this was the attitude of many men in the 1950's.  But Phoebe does find an interesting man in her journey.

I also loved the relationship between Phoebe and her sister Mona.  Mona has a medical condition that has placed her in a long term care facility.  But Phoebe still finds ways to spend time with her and ensure she never feels abandoned.

Story:

The story, about how many blacklisted people in entertainment fled to Europe, was really entertaining.  I had no idea that this had actually occurred.  When several of these people start working in the burgeoning British television industry (using aliases), the novel takes on the feel of a spy thriller.  Many people went to great lengths to protect these Americans from the FBI.  The harassment of these people by their own American government is truly shameful.

This was a highly entertaining novel from a perspective I knew little about.  A must read for people who enjoy Historical Fiction.
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I really enjoyed this novel! 

Phoebe Adler is working to make a living in a Man's World - namely in this case, the show-writing world. Phoebe writes scripts for a crime show (censor-approved of course,) and feels like she's finally about to get her big break - when on-set one day, she's informed she's been blacklisted for being a supposed communist, and immediately fired. Red Letter Days follows Phoebe's journey to England to escape a subpoena, along with the journey of Hannah, a female director working to get her first big show off the ground in England, with a team of escaped blacklistee script writers. 

This book does an awesome job of showcasing both the insanity that came with the age of McCarthyism, along with some major girl-power in Hannah and Phoebe's stories, which are based on real life. Highly recommmend!
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Usually, I read historical fiction set in the WWII era or earlier.  This was a nice change and an interesting topic. I would recommend this book to my book club.
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Linda's Book Obsession Reviews "Red Letter Days" by Sarah=Jane Stratford, Berkley, February 25, 2020

 Sarah-Jane Stratford, Author of "Red Letter Days" has written an intense, intriguing, captivating, compelling and thought-provoking novel. The Genre for this novel is Historical Fiction. The timeline for this story is set in the nineteen fifties, during the McCarthy trials. The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. There are betrayals, and some characters are desperate to survive at any cost.

Phoebe Adler, a young woman from New York is hoping to write for television.  This is at a time when women are not supposed to get roles based on merit. It angers many men that a talented woman writer could possibly take a job away that belonged to him. It is also a time of prejudice and fear as writers, and other artistic people are being blacklisted for being Communists. 

Phoebe has been successful in her writing attempts and is shocked when she is fired and blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer. Phoebe has been trying to also support her ailing sister, who is in a hospital. Feeling, she has no choice, Phoebe leaves America and heads for London.

Hannah Wolfson is a successful American producer in London.  Helen does hire "blacklisted: Americans, although it is very dangerous. She has to take certain precautions. Some Londoners resent that the Americans get the jobs. In London, just like America, women are looked down upon, expected to marry, and have children, and not take jobs away from men.

Hannah does hire Phoebe, and they try to right what is wrong in society, but is it the correct timing? Little do they realize the danger, and the persistence of those who are seeking revenge.

I appreciate the amount of research that the author has done to provide the details in this story. The author vividly describes the witch hunts and prejudice in this story. I highly recommend this thought-provoking novel for those readers who appreciate Historical Fiction.
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