Last Night At The Telegraph Club by Malinda LoLast Night At The Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo is a beautiful and heart-wrenching historical young adult novel.

Lily Hu can’t remember when she began to question who she really is, but all of her concerns and doubts about herself were laid to rest when she and Kathleen Miller turned up on the doorstep of a popular lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

It is 1954 in America and it is one of the most dangerous times for Lily and Kath to fall in love because the Red Scare paranoia has everyone on edge. There’s also a slight chance that Lily’s father could be deported even though he has worked hard to obtain his citizenship.

Will Lily and Kath put everything on the line so that they could hold on to each other and their love?

The Characters

Lily Hu and Kathleen ‘Kath’ Miller are seventeen-year-old students and they are in their final year of high school. Lily has always been caught up in the mysteries of outer space and she wants to work in a laboratory that specializes in space travel as soon as she graduates from college. Kath is a huge fan of airplanes because they represent freedom and endless possibilities and she is willing to do whatever it takes to become a pilot. Lily and Kath knew that they were different from the other girls in their class but they didn’t know how to put their puzzling feelings into words until they slowly but surely fell in love with each other.

It was so easy for me to get attached to these endearing characters because I could totally relate to their fears about coming out to their family members and friends. My heart really went out to these girls and I wanted to reach through my kindle to give them the biggest and mushiest hugs known to womankind!

The Writing Style

Malinda Lo has done a fabulous job of portraying the slow and tender development of Lily and Kath’s relationship. This author gave me a lot of important historical information in each section and she also gave me vivid descriptions of what Chinatown and the surrounding areas used to look like. There were times where I felt as though I was right there beside Lily and Kath when they were at the Telegraph Club because I could easily imagine their shock and delight at finding and being in a place where they were free to be themselves. I love the fact that this story was told from several characters’ points of view because it was easy for me to understand what made them tick.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

I’m a huge fan of lesbian historical fiction books and I am not ashamed to admit that Malinda Lo has become one of my new favorite authors. I truly enjoyed seeing and experiencing Chinatown, San Francisco in the 1950’s through Lily’s eyes because it was a significant period where racial diversity and cultural expression was concerned. That unforgettable time was also in the middle of the Red-Scare paranoia where everyone’s activities where heavily monitored and anything outside of the norm was flagged as communist behavior. I’m a hardcore foodie and this phenomenal author has mentioned several delicious Chinese meals and deserts that I would really like to try one day (I ate a lot of snacks while I was reading this book and I don’t regret it!)

Cons And Heads Up

I really wished this story was longer because I wanted to spend more time with Lily and Kath!

The Conclusion

aprils favourite booksI couldn’t wait to get my hands on this lovely story when I first heard about it and I counted down the days until I could devour it in one of the longest reading marathons I’ve ever done in my life. This story has surpassed my greatest expectations because it took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride with Lily and Kath as they embarked on a journey of self-discovery and first love in the midst of painful uncertainty, family drama and widespread homophobia.

TLDR (too long didn’t read)

This is a poignant and enthralling historical young adult novel that deserves to be on everyone’s to-be-read list!

Excerpt from Last Night At The Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

The Telegraph Club’s white neon sign was smaller than Lily had expected, and it glowed over a circular awning that was also printed with the name of the club. Beneath the awning, half-lit by the nearby streetlamp, was a black door, and in front of the black door stood a person whom Lily initially thought was a short, stocky man in a suit, but soon realized was a woman. Lily had seen people like her before (she had always noticed; they had drawn her eye magnetically, somehow, in a way that made her pulse leap), but never in this context: as if it were natural, and even expected, to be dressed this way.

“You girls sure you’re in the right place?” the bouncer asked.

Lily felt for her fake ID in her handbag, wondering if she should take it out.

“I’ve been here before,” Kath said. “We’re sure.”

The bouncer gave Kath a little grin, and waved them inside with a flourish. “Well then, welcome back,” she said cheerfully.

Relieved, Lily followed Kath into the club, avoiding the bouncer’s gaze. The black door opened into a narrow, dimly lit space. Lily didn’t know where to look at first; she wanted to see everything, but she was afraid to stare. There was a mirrored bar on the left where patrons sat on stools. There was barely enough space on the right for Lily and Kath to pass in single file. Lily was struck most forcefully by the smell of the place: a mixture of booze, perfume, sweat, and cigarette smoke. As she followed Kath down the side of the room, she noticed some of the women turning their heads to look at her, their eyes reflecting the globe lights hanging above.

At the end of the bar, the narrow space opened via an archway into a wider room—perhaps three times as wide—and in the center rear was a tiny stage where a spotlight shone upon a solitary microphone. At the back of the stage was an upright piano, and a woman in a boxy suit with a poodle haircut was seated on the bench, placing her hands on the keys. All around the stage were little round tables, and each one was filled. Kath pulled Lily toward the side of the room and found a small empty space between a table and the wall. The pianist began to play, and the room, which had been lively with conversation and laughter, began to hush.

The rear of the stage was covered by a black curtain, and Lily wondered if someone was going to step out from behind it. She had been waiting for this for so long that these last few moments seemed interminable. She quivered in her shoes as she gazed at the stage, at the people seated near the edge—she was jealous of their proximity to that microphone—and at Kath, who was watching the stage just as she was. Then there was a murmur behind them, and all the people packed into their section turned toward the archway.

Someone was making their way through the crowd.

Lily couldn’t see the person clearly, only the motion of others making way, like a wave, but she followed the ripple and turned along with her neighbors as that person strolled through the audience, and finally stepped onto the low stage and into the spotlight.

Lily knew that this was Tommy Andrews, male impersonator. She knew that the entire point of the show was the fact that the performer was not a man. Someone nearby whispered, “Is that really a woman?” And Lily squirmed with embarrassment, because that question led her to imagine what Tommy’s body looked like under her suit, and that seemed so disrespectful—like those men who had leered at them at the bowling alley. Lily felt a queasy, self-conscious confusion. It was wrong to stare, and yet Tommy was onstage, and they were supposed to look. It would be rude not to watch, so she did.

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