Published: March 10th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this atmospheric novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline for the gifted copy of the book.
It’s 1952. The switchboard operators in Wooster, Ohio, love nothing more than to eavesdrop on their neighbours’ conversations, and gossip about what they learn. Vivian Dalton is no different (despite her teenage daughter’s disapproval), and always longs to hear something scandalous. But on the night of December 15th, she wishes she hadn’t. The secret that’s shared by a stranger on the line threatens to rip the rug of Vivian’s life from under her.
Vivian may be mortified, but she’s not going to take this lying down. She wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be. But one secret tends to lead to another . . .
This moving, heart-felt and ultimately uplifting novel brilliantly weaves together an irresistible portrayal of a town buzzing with scandal, and an unforgettable story of marriage, motherhood and the unbreakable ties of family.
The Operator is a character study about life in a small town. We take a peek behind the bright smiles and perfect family images of its residents, discovering the secrets and lies they hide when the town is rocked by scandal.
Vivian Dalton is a switchboard girl at Ohio Bell. They aren’t supposed to listen in when they connect the calls but everybody does it. And who wouldn’t take the chance to discover the juicy gossip about their friends and neighbours? But Vivian’s eavesdropping comes back to bite her when she overhears some scandalous gossip about her own family that shatters her world. Worst of all, the information is in the hands of the town’s biggest gossip Betty Miller.
Mortified, Vivian tries to think of a way to stop the town from hearing the rumour and her family being humiliated. She soon learns that they aren’t the only ones harbouring a scandalous secret and there are others with far bigger skeletons in their closets waiting to be revealed.
This marvellously written debut was a joy to read. It drew me in from the first pages, the authentic language and vivid imagery transporting me to small-town 50s America and the glossy facade of the lives of its residents. I thought I knew what I was getting, but the author created a rich tapestry, woven from the myriad of seemingly insignificant threads of information, that looked nothing like what I had imagined. It was hard to predict and I loved not knowing where it was going or what would happen next. I enjoyed the various literary styles the author used to tell the story by peppering it with things such as word descriptions and recipes and giving the reader an in-depth look at Vivian’s history.
The story boasts a multitude of rich characters but centres around two women – Vivian and Betty – who are more competitors than friends. Though they despise each other, the women are more alike than they think: they both like to be in control, good appearances are important to them above all else and struggle with anger and use techniques to calm it – Vivian bakes and Betty strokes her angel charm on her watch. Neither character was particularly likeable, but Vivian did have a charm that drew me to her.
The Operator is a wonderful, witty, intriguing and heart-felt novel. I enjoyed watching it morph into something unexpected and that even after the story ends the author’s note shines a different light on the story. I would recommend this delightful, understated and readable book to anyone who enjoys historical or literary fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gretchen Berg is a writer with a Bachelor’s degree in something completely unrelated to writing. Both parents encouraged her to write, but she waited until she heard “you are a writer” from more trustworthy advisors: a London psychic and a taxicab driver in Athens, Greece. The taxicab driver also said they had been lovers in a previous life, though, so, everything with a grain of salt. Gretchen is a Cancer, with Scorpio rising, who was born and raised. She loves when people dress up.
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