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  • Location: Bradford

The Telephone Girls

The Telephone Girls

Why a Booktrail?

1930s: The story of 3 girls who work for a telephone exchange in Bradford

  • ISBN: 978-0552173650
  • Genre: Historical, Romance, Sagas

What you need to know before your trail

A group of girls works the complicated electrical switchboards in West Yorkshire . Among them are Cynthia, Norma and Millicent, who relish the busy, efficient atmosphere and the independence and friendship their jobs have given them.

But when Millicent connects a telephone call for an old friend, and listens in to the conversation – breaking one of the telephonists’ main rules – she, and then Norma and Cynthia too, become caught up in a story of scandal, corruption and murder.

Travel Guide


Reading this book is to step back in time to 1930s Bradford. The detail and sense of place is nicely done:

“For six days a week Norma took a tram or a bus into town, alighting eagerly in City Square and making her way through the crowds past Marks and Spencer and Timothy’s White’s to George Street and the brand new telephone exchange built in the style of an Egyptian temple – all smooth lines and zig zag decoration on the stone facade.”

Imagine the excitement of working in the telephone exchange – this new development in communications when the world was changing, girls were working and the birth of the telephone was really taking off…

These high black panels featured rows of sockets and winking lights with a table in front of each operator that had columns and keys,lamps and pairs of chords

This is a world many of us won’t remember but it’s a thrilling look at a fairly recent history of what it would have been like to have worked in such a place. To be able to listen into other people’s conversations, to have to learn about Alexander Graham Bell to pass your proficiency test, to know the names and numbers of your regulars. A fascinating world.

Of course this is not the only setting in the novel. For some girls, a well paid and respectable job was not always possible and some got themselves into older and less respectable professions. Those praying on the weak and vulnerable existed in 1930s as they do now. Some things it would seem never change..
A fascinating insight in to what it was like to work in a telephone exchange in 1930s Yorkshire, the dresses, the dances, the girly chats and the bond of friendship.

Streetview Maps

B) Bradford - No telephone exchange but a leisure one!
C) Bradford - Raglan Road

Booktrailer Review

Susan: @thebooktrailer

I’d not read a Jenny Holmes book before this one, but I really enjoyed this one. The cover might suggest a book for the older lady but this is a really interesting story into 1930s life in Yorkshire. I visited a telephone exchange once back in the 1980s – yes they existed then – and this brought it all back although not in exactly the same way. It makes you realise how quickly times change and that some people will read this on their iphones – how weird is that!

It starts off as a saga but gets into some quite gritty issues. All of the characters were well drawn and described and they each told their story which was woven into the central mystery. It reminded me of Call the Midwife and The Bletchley Circle – female friendship in some very tricky situations. A good story, with a fascinating sense of time and place. Really enjoyed this one.

Booktrail Boarding Pass: The Telephone Girls

Destination:  Bradford, Cambridge  Author/Guide: Jenny Holmes  Departure Time: 1930s

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