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Switchboard Soldiers

Review

Switchboard Soldiers

SWITCHBOARD SOLDIERS is the latest installment in an impressive array of historical novels from esteemed bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini. Set during World War I, it provides a richly detailed look at the women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as telephone operators.

“Undoubtedly, theirs was a fast-paced, demanding job that required a lot of energy, nimbleness, and steady nerves, and it was common knowledge that women were much better suited for it than men...The men they replaced had needed one minute to connect each call. The switchboard soldiers could do it in ten seconds.”

"History buffs will love learning about these brave women as they hone their skills as telephone operators, interview with the Signal Corps, train endlessly and tirelessly, and travel overseas with German U-boats attacking their vessel..."

The book follows Marie Miossec, an aspiring opera singer; Grace Banker, an AT&T switchboard instructor who craves independence; and Valerie DeSmedt, a telephone operator who wants to serve her country just like brother, Henri.

During this time period, women had not yet been granted the vote in most states nor were they allowed to enlist without a note of permission from their husband or father. Yet, in this groundbreaking turn of events, women were not only permitted but recruited to join the war effort. Marie, Grace and Valerie are determined to prove that they deserve to serve their country just as much as a man.

“You must think of us as soldiers first and women second.”

History buffs will love learning about these brave women as they hone their skills as telephone operators, interview with the Signal Corps, train endlessly and tirelessly, and travel overseas with German U-boats attacking their vessel before finally arriving in France to begin working as “real American hello girls.”

Then, just as they are settling into a routine and maybe even finding a touch of romance, a new threat appears on the horizon: the Spanish flu pandemic.

While I enjoyed much of this methodically researched story and the incredible history captured within, it was extremely heavy on facts and low on character personality. Marie, Grace and Valerie blurred into one, and I had a difficult time discerning and remembering their differences. Additionally, with three similar main characters doing the same job, it was repetitive at times.

In the author’s note at the end, I was pleased to find out that Grace is based on an actual person by the same name, making the events feel even more real and powerful.

Can’t get enough of the women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps? Then I would recommend reading GIRLS ON THE LINE by Aimie K. Runyan.

Learn all about the women’s suffrage movement in THE WOMEN’S MARCH, which is my favorite Chiaverini book. It is heavy on history but also includes intelligent zingers and unexpected humor that made me laugh out loud with glee. And if you need lighter palate cleansers in between Chiaverini’s historical fiction works, then be sure to delve into her Elm Creek series for its fun stories and unique, lovable characters.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wasniak on July 29, 2022

Switchboard Soldiers
by Jennifer Chiaverini

  • Publication Date: July 19, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0063080699
  • ISBN-13: 9780063080690