Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Release Day Review: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

With an enticing blurb and cover design triggering memories from my own childhood, The Operator filled my head with presumptive expectations before I began reading only for me to find this novel is something far more than a nosey woman listening in to other peoples' conversations.

Vivian Dalton (nee McGinty) grew up in Wooster, Ohio as someone always in the middle. She was either too young to join in with the older children or too old to play with the younger ones. Always alone when her family had visitors, Therefore to pass the time, 'Vivy' began eavesdropping on the older girls, listening in on their teenage gossip. It was the start of a habit she would carry forward to when she began working as an operator for Bell. Listening in to other peoples gossip distracted her from her own life until she overhears gossip about herself!

Set in the early nineteen fifties with flashbacks to when Vivian grew up, the author paints a detailed portrayal of how life was in a small Midwestern town. One striking fact is none of the characters are particularly likeable. Although I must stress, this isn't a negative observation. Vivian masks her insecurities with a defensive attitude. She's embarrassed about her lack of education after having to leave school after eighth grade to work and bring income to her family household. Therefore it's striking when we get to know another woman, Betty who despite coming from a wealthy family and going to college, gives up any ambitions to become a stay at home mother with four children. Passing her idle time gossiping and arranging pretentious get-togethers to spread rumours. Two women from very different backgrounds but equally unhappy with their lives.

The narrative is a bit choppy until you get used to the format as it goes back and fro including side plots too. Towards the end, the momentum speeds up as everything begins to connect. Much ground is covered in what's an intricate story and kudos to the author for pulling it all together.

Overall, a soundly written début novel which unfortunately didn't win me over one hundred percent, yet, I'm confident, many readers who like books written about this era who will enjoy it immensely.

***arc generously received courtesy of William Morrow via Edelweiss+***

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment