Book Recommendation of the Month, Reviews

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

A story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

This is a book that I’ve been interested in reading for a while. My friends and I met up a wee while ago to do a book swap and I’d like to thank my lovely pal for loaning this book to me. I will return this when I no longer have The Rona and can go outside. This book was an absolute delight.

I loved Lily! I thought that she was just such a sweet girl and so caring towards her family. Her friends, I felt, were so realistic for a friend group in high school. Her group of friends all seemed to surround one very bossy queen bee and Lily usually went along with the group as she was reluctant to cause drama. I enjoyed her meeting with Kath and bonding over being super smart and the only girls in their class for super smart people.

Lily’s life seemed to change after befriending Kath. I enjoyed her character development and that she stood up to her bossy friend despite that fact that this resulted in her group shunning her as punishment. Lily just bloomed!

Kath introduced Lily to The Telegraph Club which was a local lesbian bar that Lily had wanted to visit. I really enjoyed joining Lily on her journey of self discovery. The same for Kath too. It was really nice seeing them realise more about themselves and meeting other lesbians.

This was a real coming of age kind of romance. This was one of the sweetest romance stories I have read in a long time. I was rooting for Lily and Kath. All the while knowing that this time period wasn’t ideal for two women in love and just waiting for something bad to happen.

There were a lot of found family elements which just warmed my wee soul!

In addition to this being a love story, there were a couple of other plots running through the book; the fear of deportation and the fear of communism. Lily’s father, a respected doctor, was facing deportation despite having citizenship. There were also suspicions of communist organisations within their society. These are two topics that I haven’t really read a lot of before and found to be very interesting.

I actually didn’t know a lot about the political situation of the US in the 1950s so this book was very eye opening. There were a lot of resources provided at the end of the book so I did fall down a bit of a rabbit hole afterwards.

I found this book to be both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I thoroughly enjoyed it! This was definitely my book recommendation of the month!

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