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Switchboard Soldiers

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"An eye-opening and detailed novel about remarkable female soldiers. . . Chiaverini weaves the intersecting threads of these brave women's lives together, highlighting their deep sense of pride and duty."--Kirkus Reviews From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini, a bold, revelatory novel about one of the great untold stories of World War I--the women of the "An eye-opening and detailed novel about remarkable female soldiers. . . Chiaverini weaves the intersecting threads of these brave women's lives together, highlighting their deep sense of pride and duty."--Kirkus Reviews From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini, a bold, revelatory novel about one of the great untold stories of World War I--the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, who broke down gender barriers in the military, smashed the workplace glass ceiling, and battled a pandemic as they helped lead the Allies to victory. In June 1917, General John Pershing arrived in France to establish American forces in Europe. He immediately found himself unable to communicate with troops in the field. Pershing needed operators who could swiftly and accurately connect multiple calls, speak fluent French and English, remain steady under fire, and be utterly discreet, since the calls often conveyed classified information. At the time, nearly all well-trained American telephone operators were women--but women were not permitted to enlist, or even to vote in most states. Nevertheless, the U.S. Army Signal Corps promptly began recruiting them. More than 7,600 women responded, including Grace Banker of New Jersey, a switchboard instructor with AT&T and an alumna of Barnard College; Marie Miossec, a Frenchwoman and aspiring opera singer; and Valerie DeSmedt, a twenty-year-old Pacific Telephone operator from Los Angeles, determined to strike a blow for her native Belgium. They were among the first women sworn into the U.S. Army under the Articles of War. The male soldiers they had replaced had needed one minute to connect each call. The switchboard soldiers could do it in ten seconds. The risk of death was real--the women worked as bombs fell around them--as was the threat of a deadly new disease: the Spanish Flu. Not all of the telephone operators would survive. The women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps served with honor and played an essential role in achieving the Allied victory. Their story has never been the focus of a novel...until now.


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"An eye-opening and detailed novel about remarkable female soldiers. . . Chiaverini weaves the intersecting threads of these brave women's lives together, highlighting their deep sense of pride and duty."--Kirkus Reviews From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini, a bold, revelatory novel about one of the great untold stories of World War I--the women of the "An eye-opening and detailed novel about remarkable female soldiers. . . Chiaverini weaves the intersecting threads of these brave women's lives together, highlighting their deep sense of pride and duty."--Kirkus Reviews From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini, a bold, revelatory novel about one of the great untold stories of World War I--the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, who broke down gender barriers in the military, smashed the workplace glass ceiling, and battled a pandemic as they helped lead the Allies to victory. In June 1917, General John Pershing arrived in France to establish American forces in Europe. He immediately found himself unable to communicate with troops in the field. Pershing needed operators who could swiftly and accurately connect multiple calls, speak fluent French and English, remain steady under fire, and be utterly discreet, since the calls often conveyed classified information. At the time, nearly all well-trained American telephone operators were women--but women were not permitted to enlist, or even to vote in most states. Nevertheless, the U.S. Army Signal Corps promptly began recruiting them. More than 7,600 women responded, including Grace Banker of New Jersey, a switchboard instructor with AT&T and an alumna of Barnard College; Marie Miossec, a Frenchwoman and aspiring opera singer; and Valerie DeSmedt, a twenty-year-old Pacific Telephone operator from Los Angeles, determined to strike a blow for her native Belgium. They were among the first women sworn into the U.S. Army under the Articles of War. The male soldiers they had replaced had needed one minute to connect each call. The switchboard soldiers could do it in ten seconds. The risk of death was real--the women worked as bombs fell around them--as was the threat of a deadly new disease: the Spanish Flu. Not all of the telephone operators would survive. The women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps served with honor and played an essential role in achieving the Allied victory. Their story has never been the focus of a novel...until now.

30 review for Switchboard Soldiers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    The one thing that you can say about Switchboard Soldiers is that it did not lack research. The book was thoroughly researched, but then it felt like the author was trying so hard to show her research that it felt more like a textbook than a fictional novel. There were way too many pages of description when the story would benefit from more dialogue. A war, action-based book needs dialogue to move the story forward, especially with the growing trend for readers to want show and not tell. I don't The one thing that you can say about Switchboard Soldiers is that it did not lack research. The book was thoroughly researched, but then it felt like the author was trying so hard to show her research that it felt more like a textbook than a fictional novel. There were way too many pages of description when the story would benefit from more dialogue. A war, action-based book needs dialogue to move the story forward, especially with the growing trend for readers to want show and not tell. I don't need every battle described, let the characters talk about what they read or heard or the misinformation pouring in. Let them express their emotions through conversation or diaries or forgo omnipotent narrator for 1st person narration. This was the same problem I had with her last book, The Woman's March, it's too textbook. I would love to read a nonfiction book from her, but her fiction just gets weighed down in detail. Despite that, I did like the characters, especially Marie because she had the most dialogue. I did find myself skimming Grace's chapters because they had the most description and less dialogue. I was really rooting for Marie and Giovanni to find each other at the end of the war, and I felt that I could relate to her character best. I think that people who love detailed historical novels will love this book, but I personally want more active action in my war novels.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    The novel follows three young women who are employed as telephone operators in 1918. When they learn that the Army Signal Corps is recruiting experienced phone operators who speak French, they are eager to assist with the war effort. We meet each individually: Grace, who studied French in college, is from New Jersey; Marie is from a French family residing in Cincinnati; and Valerie’s family migrated from Belgium to California. We follow them through their training, their voyage to France, throug The novel follows three young women who are employed as telephone operators in 1918. When they learn that the Army Signal Corps is recruiting experienced phone operators who speak French, they are eager to assist with the war effort. We meet each individually: Grace, who studied French in college, is from New Jersey; Marie is from a French family residing in Cincinnati; and Valerie’s family migrated from Belgium to California. We follow them through their training, their voyage to France, through bombardments and air raids, and even some romance. I had never heard of this group, the “Hello Girls” as they were often called. I enjoyed this wonderful novel which encompassed everything I look for in the best historical fiction: well-developed characters I cared about, a compelling and exciting plot, and obviously thorough historical research. I’m grateful that the publisher and Netgalley provided me with an advance copy to review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    3.5 rounded to 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I won this uncorrected copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway Promotion. This is a historical fiction novel focusing on three women who served their country during WWI as telephone operators. “Young America” Attention “Here is your opportunity to serve your country in France with General Perishing’s Expeditionary Force- a chance to do as much to help with the war as the man in khaki.” Grace Banker feels compelled to enlist as she has an excellent command of the Fren 3.5 rounded to 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I won this uncorrected copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway Promotion. This is a historical fiction novel focusing on three women who served their country during WWI as telephone operators. “Young America” Attention “Here is your opportunity to serve your country in France with General Perishing’s Expeditionary Force- a chance to do as much to help with the war as the man in khaki.” Grace Banker feels compelled to enlist as she has an excellent command of the French language. Marie Miossec is a French opera singer that abandons her career to help the troops. She was also fluent in French. Valerie DeSmedt originally from Brussels decides to help the cause. These three women along with others embark on a journey of a life time They lived in constant danger, bombs exploding and the treat of the deadly Spanish flu. Their lives will never be the same again. Although I enjoyed this very well researched book. I felt it was very slow moving and drawn out in places. It was very repetitive among the main characters. You will enjoy this book if you want to learn more about women in WWI.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marcia reading past dark

    Switchboard Soldiers, a historical fiction novel set during World War I, is the story of the brave, adventure-seeking, and talented young women who served in the U. S. Army Signal Corps. In a time when most females aided the war effort by sewing or entertaining, these Hello Girls traveled Over There to the front lines of action to work as telephone operators. Jennifer Chiaverni was thorough in her research, and this novel is an education in itself. Other reviewers have criticized the amount of h Switchboard Soldiers, a historical fiction novel set during World War I, is the story of the brave, adventure-seeking, and talented young women who served in the U. S. Army Signal Corps. In a time when most females aided the war effort by sewing or entertaining, these Hello Girls traveled Over There to the front lines of action to work as telephone operators. Jennifer Chiaverni was thorough in her research, and this novel is an education in itself. Other reviewers have criticized the amount of history in the book. Welcome to the world of historical fiction! The groundwork and detail are so complete that I will long remember this story. The descriptions of their daily work and of the circumstances in which they lived represent the true experience of all of the soldiers who served in that war. Mention was made of the Mersey River, and I hummed the Beatles’ “Ferry Cross the Mersey” for the next few chapters. I also found it interesting that the women wore masks to protect against influenza. One of the characters said that she hoped she’d never need to wear a mask again. (Me, too!) I easily identified with each of the women who were the main characters. And don’t worry, there is that necessary touch of romance that most readers want. This is a well-told and informative story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    The young ladies who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WW I defied the accepted norm that women were good for nothing but cooking and sewing and the author has brought them to life. We are introduced to three young ladies – Marie, Valerie and Grace – all from very different backgrounds but they speak French and happen to work at telephone exchanges in the US. French language and switchboard experience is exactly what’s needed by the Army and General John Pershing in particular so the U. The young ladies who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WW I defied the accepted norm that women were good for nothing but cooking and sewing and the author has brought them to life. We are introduced to three young ladies – Marie, Valerie and Grace – all from very different backgrounds but they speak French and happen to work at telephone exchanges in the US. French language and switchboard experience is exactly what’s needed by the Army and General John Pershing in particular so the U.S. Army Signal Corps begins a recruiting campaign. Marie, Valerie and Grace are accepted to go “Over There”. Actually we are more than 150 pages in before they actually arrive “Over There” and the overuse of the term “Over There” was so glaring it became a distraction. There is a great deal of WW l history which I’m sure will be of interest to many, but for me it didn’t help to move the story of these brave women along. The influenza outbreak is also touched upon describing the need for mask wearing and excessive hand washing. Most importantly: “They were the first, Grace knew, but their success meant that they would not be the last.” (Pg.427) BUT (as per the Author’s Note) it took more than 60 years until Pres. Jimmy Carter signed a bill awarding the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps honorable discharges and WW l Victory Medals officially recognizing them as military veterans. While I found a lot of the book ponderous and skipped long sections I was glad to read the stories of these amazing women.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I love learning about different parts of history I never learned in school!! This book focuses on the women who served in the US Army Signal Corp during WWI. Told through multiple POVs, the story mainly takes place near the end of the war when America finally entered in 1917-1918 and tells the story of the women who braved the front to help pass along important messages both during and after the war ended. Highly recommended for fans of books like Band of sisters by Lauren Willig or Lost roses b I love learning about different parts of history I never learned in school!! This book focuses on the women who served in the US Army Signal Corp during WWI. Told through multiple POVs, the story mainly takes place near the end of the war when America finally entered in 1917-1918 and tells the story of the women who braved the front to help pass along important messages both during and after the war ended. Highly recommended for fans of books like Band of sisters by Lauren Willig or Lost roses by Martha Hall Kelly. Great on audio narrated by my fav historical fiction narrator, Saskia Maarleveld.

  7. 5 out of 5

    theliterateleprechaun

    I love these untold stories featuring valiant women! Although this was a 'meaty' book, I didn't once feel that the author was info dumping. Fact and fiction blended well and made for an enjoyable read. I'm amazed at what they did for such little pay! The author's message came across clearly: the sacrifices of these women trailblazers meant freedom for those after them. I've bought The Aloha Quilt and will stash it in my suitcase for Hawaii in October! I love these untold stories featuring valiant women! Although this was a 'meaty' book, I didn't once feel that the author was info dumping. Fact and fiction blended well and made for an enjoyable read. I'm amazed at what they did for such little pay! The author's message came across clearly: the sacrifices of these women trailblazers meant freedom for those after them. I've bought The Aloha Quilt and will stash it in my suitcase for Hawaii in October!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    DNF. I just can’t do it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    During World War I, Marie, Grace and Valerie served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as telephone operators. During this time period, women had not yet been granted the vote in most states nor were they allowed to enlist without a permission note from their husband or father. Yet, in this groundbreaking turn of events, women were not only permitted, but recruited to serve. Methodically researched, history buffs will enjoy learning about these brave women as they honed their skills as telephone oper During World War I, Marie, Grace and Valerie served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as telephone operators. During this time period, women had not yet been granted the vote in most states nor were they allowed to enlist without a permission note from their husband or father. Yet, in this groundbreaking turn of events, women were not only permitted, but recruited to serve. Methodically researched, history buffs will enjoy learning about these brave women as they honed their skills as telephone operators, interviewed with the Signal Corps, trained endlessly, and traveled overseas with German Uboats attacking their vessel before finally arriving in France to begin working as “real American hello girls.” “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.” Then, just as they were 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 story and the incredible history captured within, it was extremely heavy on facts, low on character personality, and with three similar main characters, it was also repetitive at times. 3.5 stars Can’t get enough of the women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps? Then I would recommend Girls on the Line (4 stars) by Aimie K. Runyan. The Women's March: A Novel of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession (5 stars) remains my favorite by this author. It also is heavy on history but included intelligent zingers and unexpected humor. Lastly, if you need lighter, palate cleansers in between Ms. Chiaverini’s historical fiction novels, then be sure to try the Elm Creek series for its fun stories and unique, lovable characters. Location: 1917 Ohio, Virginia, California, NYC and France I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan Kinyon

    In 1918 General John Pershing arrived in France to lead the American forces against Hitler, Germany and its allied forces. He found men able to install and repair the communication lines and wiring, but unable to run the switchboards with ease and efficiency. Pershing immediately sent out a plea for educated American women (married or single) who spoke both English and French proficiently and were adept at working a switchboard with impeccable security at all times (to ensure the safety of Ameri In 1918 General John Pershing arrived in France to lead the American forces against Hitler, Germany and its allied forces. He found men able to install and repair the communication lines and wiring, but unable to run the switchboards with ease and efficiency. Pershing immediately sent out a plea for educated American women (married or single) who spoke both English and French proficiently and were adept at working a switchboard with impeccable security at all times (to ensure the safety of American forces). The applications arrived from all over the country; every female was anxious to do her part to help the effort. Three women were selected from thousands to join the US Army Signal Corps and of them, three (two are fictitious) were chosen for this historical novel by Jennifer Chiaverini. Each individual tells her story in alternating chapters with the three "Hello Girls": Grace, originally from New Jersey, studied French in college and began working at AT&T; Marie, originally from France, obtained her degree and then was spending time in Cincinatti working; and Valerie who migrated from Belgium with her family to California where she received her education and began working at Pacific Bell. Each left her respective position to serve the US Army Signal Corps (making less money) but having a chance to see the world and help others in ways they couldn't have imagined and would never regret. The reader is taken through their extensive training, their voyage to France, bombardments, air raids, and even some romance. We must remember World War I happened before women even had the right to vote. That didn't happen until 1919. Following the victory of WWI, the women were expected to return to their lives in the United States without any recognition or government benefits. Many women and citizens objected. It wasn't until President Jimmy Carter was in office that the women of the US Army Signal Corps were finally acknowledged and recognized for their work and efforts during WWI. Sadly, many of them had passed away before that award was granted and their long-overdue benefits offered by the government. At times, this historical fiction actually reads like a textbook. Jennifer Chiaverini has compiled so much deep research and other fascinating information on WWI and included it, as well, in her storyline. The characters and locations are described so vividly that conversations are not necessary throughout many parts of this action-packed read. Chiaverini's writing is always outstanding! 4.75 Stars (rounded up to 5.0 for Goodreads).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    SWITCHBOARD SOLDIERS Jennifer Chiaverini So for sure, it was me. I just could not get engaged in any shape or form. 2 stars DNF Happy REading!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina Maisel

    Interesting enough historical fiction. Found it a little challenging to keep the protagonists apart - their voices and experiences were not sufficiently unique that even at the end of the book I still had to reference the first 3 chapters to remember who was who. Also felt like this novel didn't quite commit as much as I would have liked to the history. That said, having known nothing about switchboard soldiers (including their existence), this novel did give me an appreciation of the womens' ma Interesting enough historical fiction. Found it a little challenging to keep the protagonists apart - their voices and experiences were not sufficiently unique that even at the end of the book I still had to reference the first 3 chapters to remember who was who. Also felt like this novel didn't quite commit as much as I would have liked to the history. That said, having known nothing about switchboard soldiers (including their existence), this novel did give me an appreciation of the womens' massive contributions to WWI.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Covers some interesting history but the pacing and organization were flawed. There are multiple characters, but they are mostly indistinguishable, resulting in basically the same events being repeated over and over. The operators don't get to France until halfway through the book, so the first half is fairly dull set-up and background. The pace of the story does improve in the second half. Writing style is fairly bland. Covers some interesting history but the pacing and organization were flawed. There are multiple characters, but they are mostly indistinguishable, resulting in basically the same events being repeated over and over. The operators don't get to France until halfway through the book, so the first half is fairly dull set-up and background. The pace of the story does improve in the second half. Writing style is fairly bland.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Hensey

    I enjoyed learning about the Signal Corps and the women involved during WW1. My father served in the Signal Corps in Korea and Viet Nam. The author should be commended for her research and that is why I gave the book 4 stars. The story itself, though, was too lengthy and somewhat contrived to me. I would give it 3 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    It's World War I, and General Pershing is leading the American Expeditionary Forces stationed throughout France as Allied forces attempt to thwart a German invasion. Communications are key to the war effort, and Pershing needs trained switchboard operators that are fluent in English and French to serve on the front lines in France. Advertisements calling for "Hello Girls" to serve in the U. S. Army Signal Corp are posted nationwide in every newspaper and telephone office. Grace Banker, Marie Mio It's World War I, and General Pershing is leading the American Expeditionary Forces stationed throughout France as Allied forces attempt to thwart a German invasion. Communications are key to the war effort, and Pershing needs trained switchboard operators that are fluent in English and French to serve on the front lines in France. Advertisements calling for "Hello Girls" to serve in the U. S. Army Signal Corp are posted nationwide in every newspaper and telephone office. Grace Banker, Marie Miossec, and Valerie DeSmedt apply to become switchboard soldiers. Each young woman has a special connection to France or the war. Grace's brother has joined the Army. She feels compelled to join the effort herself to help end the war and bring her brother back home. Marie, an accomplished classical singer and French-American immigrant, wants a chance to be of service to her newly adopted country while also serving to protect her homeland. Valerie is also a new American who immigrated from Belgium and she also has a brother who joined the army. She wants to contribute to the family the best way she knows how, as a switchboard operator while serving her nation and supporting Belgium. These three strong-willed women are put through rigorous testing and training before being accepted as soldiers in the army. They are the first women to serve in the military. Over 200 women went to France during World War I as switchboard soldiers. After training and preparing for their new roles in the U. S., the women were shipped to France in multiple waves in military convoys across the Atlantic. They survived rough seas, enemy bombings, and an influenza outbreak before landing in La Havre, France. Once they arrived, they were deployed to various encampments, including Paris, Tours, and Chaumont, often moving to stay close to the front lines under Pershing's command. Their work and living conditions were often no better and maybe even sometimes worse than the soldiers they were there to support. They suffered through air raids, fires, and harsh weather but never left their posts. The women of the Signal Corp were entrusted with army intelligence and took their job seriously. Communications were vital to the war effort; these women proudly served and fulfilled a job that the men could not do as successfully. They earned the respect of their fellow soldiers, officers, and Pershing. In her fictionalized story of the switchboard soldiers, Jennifer Chiaverini stays very close to the actual events during World War I. Of the women portrayed in the book, Grace Baker was the only real-life character. The others were amalgamations of various women who served. Chiaverini takes the story of these women from headlines, newspapers, and archival records and brings to life their story in a very relatable way. You want to cheer for each of these women and feel for them when they are put in harm's way. Each one has a beautiful backstory that is wrapped up nicely in the end. This is another great story from Chiaverini. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, Chiaverini explains that these women were not considered veterans after the war, even though they served in the Army, wore the uniform, and took the oath like every other soldier. They were told they were civilian contractors. It took 60 years and the help of AT&T and many people in political office, before Jimmy Carter finally gave these women the distinction they deserved. They received official honorable discharges and full veteran rights. Many, including Grace Banker, did not live to see this happen. These women, the first women soldiers, paved the way for the many female soldiers who have proudly served since the Great War.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Yoder

    Absolutely riveting account of what American women did on the front lines in France in WWI.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    (Thanks, Netgalley, for the advance copy.) 2.5 stars rounded up. When three women find themselves stationed in France to operate the switchboards during WWI, they find their lives and stories interwoven and irrevocably altered. This is a very, very, very drawn out historical fiction novel. Heavy on the history and extremely wordy, this book could have easily been nearly 200 pages shorter. Also, not much really happened to many of the characters. Other than the repetitive slog of switchboard shifts (Thanks, Netgalley, for the advance copy.) 2.5 stars rounded up. When three women find themselves stationed in France to operate the switchboards during WWI, they find their lives and stories interwoven and irrevocably altered. This is a very, very, very drawn out historical fiction novel. Heavy on the history and extremely wordy, this book could have easily been nearly 200 pages shorter. Also, not much really happened to many of the characters. Other than the repetitive slog of switchboard shifts, changing stations, air raids, etc., the chapters started to feel extremely cyclical well before the halfway point. While Marie was the obvious favorite, Valerie and Grace were almost interchangeable to me at times. I rounded this up to 3 stars because I think Chiaverini is a very talented writer, but so much could have been edited out of this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    So interesting......whenever I read books like this I wonder about all the lost stories we will never know about, where women stepped up.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jolene Elison

    The Womens’ U.S.A. Signal Corp were courageous women in World War 1 that I knew nothing about! They were enlisted in the army at a time when women didn’t even vote. Yet they went through military training, gas mask training, and served very near the front lines in Europe. They were taught to shoot and defend themselves as they were so near the battle. Yet when the war ended the USA government said that they were not soldiers. So they had no benefits or service history. ATT phone company battled The Womens’ U.S.A. Signal Corp were courageous women in World War 1 that I knew nothing about! They were enlisted in the army at a time when women didn’t even vote. Yet they went through military training, gas mask training, and served very near the front lines in Europe. They were taught to shoot and defend themselves as they were so near the battle. Yet when the war ended the USA government said that they were not soldiers. So they had no benefits or service history. ATT phone company battled to get them justice for their service but it wasn’t until 1974 when Jimmy Carter gave them the medals and the credit they deserved. By that time many had died. I just want to say to these brave women who served well after the peace talks and everyone else got to go home… thank you for your service!! So resilient!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    AUDIO - a long one at 14.5 hrs but I really enjoyed it. The well done detailed account of the "hello girls" and their lives up against WWI military action and hardships was very interesting. I think this is my favorite Chiaverini novel. AUDIO - a long one at 14.5 hrs but I really enjoyed it. The well done detailed account of the "hello girls" and their lives up against WWI military action and hardships was very interesting. I think this is my favorite Chiaverini novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cat Leonard

    I have read many books about WW1. Switchboard Soldiers is the book that made the war become real for me. Perhaps ot is a connection I felt with these women because I worked as a switchboard operator during high school. Perhaps it is my deep connection with my great grandma, who lost her firstborn child on a battlefield in France and never knew where he was buried. At any rate, this is one of those books I will be pondering for a very long time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    April Holmes

    While the book was obviously very well researched, at times it felt like a textbook, and the plot moved very slowly. I did enjoy learning about these women, but would have liked more fiction and less history.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    The longest book ever!! Another book I really wanted to enjoy but the storyline was just plain boring!! The narrator was fantastic and all the WW1 history was so great but the main ingredient was not there. Another reason I chose this book was because I served in the 8th Signal Battalion ( part of the 8th Infantry Division) while stationed in Germany as part of the US Army. I was a radio teletype operator!!! So I understood a bit of all the military lingo and could relate to the daily strife of The longest book ever!! Another book I really wanted to enjoy but the storyline was just plain boring!! The narrator was fantastic and all the WW1 history was so great but the main ingredient was not there. Another reason I chose this book was because I served in the 8th Signal Battalion ( part of the 8th Infantry Division) while stationed in Germany as part of the US Army. I was a radio teletype operator!!! So I understood a bit of all the military lingo and could relate to the daily strife of being a woman in a “man’s army “ (1975 - 1977)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bibi

    The cover of this book depicts four laughing, easy-going women in their navy blue uniforms complete with armbands and tan gloves. Their obvious camaraderie and friendships are clear against a background of soldiers in a mess hall. I enjoy reading "war books" even though they may be historical fiction. I am also happy to be living in this era but something about those times - the grace and godliness, the respect and honour - are especially commendable and heart-warming. This is not to distract th The cover of this book depicts four laughing, easy-going women in their navy blue uniforms complete with armbands and tan gloves. Their obvious camaraderie and friendships are clear against a background of soldiers in a mess hall. I enjoy reading "war books" even though they may be historical fiction. I am also happy to be living in this era but something about those times - the grace and godliness, the respect and honour - are especially commendable and heart-warming. This is not to distract that women did not enjoy the rights we have today and to applaud those kind souls for their efforts to bring about change. This book is about three women from different parts of the country and with different backgrounds; they heed the call to join in the war effort as telephone operators - brave and courageous women who are just as committed to the war effort as their male counterparts. Grace is fluent in French having studied French in college; she is from New Jersey; Marie is fluent because she is from a French family who migrated to Cincinnati, USA; and Valerie is also from an immigrant family who migrated from Belgium to California. Heart-warming to read how these new immigrants embrace their new country: As immigrants, we have a special obligation to prove our loyalty to the country that has given us a safe haven. Other female characters are introduced but the novel focuses primarily on these three young women. The chapters are denoted by the year and the name of the character featured. The novel meanders its way through their individual training, their transatlantic journey to France, German u-boats, the onslaught of illness(influenza), shoddy accommodations, air raids, and more. Some sections are tedious reading. I was, however, invested in the lives of the women and I enjoy reading their background story, their tenacity, their resilience, and their attempts at fun amidst trying circumstances. The role of the telephone operators with the silly moniker "hello girls" seems to be diminished despite the critical role they are assigned. The Women's U.S.A. Signal Corps consisted of real soldiers who were not considered as such mainly because they were women. These women undertook training similar to male soldiers because they were so near to the action and the battle. Horribly, when the war ended the USA government refused to acknowledge them as veterans and denied them benefits or service history. Thankfully the ATT phone company took up the cause to get them recognized which only happened during the Jimmy Carter years (1974); sadly many had already passed away. What great service these brave women provided - forever thanks to them. They were required to continue to serve even after peace talks and others were allowed to go home. The novel is well researched but could be shortened. Couched in pages and pages of words about war time, are a few poignant sections. For example, Marie's involvement with the orphaned children forming an impromptu choir to cheer the soldiers and to give purpose to those little ones who lost their parents. Or Marie and Giovanni's love interest; each not knowing where the other is as they execute their duty to their country. Or Valerie and her brother, Henri who are both serving; each hoping for the best for the other - Listen, Valerie...when the war is over, you should go back to USC and finish your degree. Or stoic Grace who provides great leadership and professionalism while nurturing a secret affection for an Australian officer; living in different worlds did not help their relationship. Here is an excerpt outlining the critical role of the telephone operators: As distant artillery boomed and Barracks Eight trembled, Grace flew from one task to another, directing her operators, liaising with her superior officers, but most often connecting calls at a station...one September morning, in her first five minutes at the switchboard, Grace fielded a call from a Signal Corps Officer requesting counterfire to draw off heavy shelling, another from a French operator warning her American counterparts of approaching German aircraft, and a third from the commander of an artillery division requesting the precise time down to the second in order to calibrate their shots with another unit. A deep bow to all the women who served in The Women's U.S.A. Signal Corp

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I enjoyed this book and I liked learning about a unsung branch of the AEF during WWI, namely The Women of the US Army Signal Corps. The book was well written and well researched. However, it was also overlong, plodding, and redundant in many places. It could have used a good pruning to reduce it by about a third, which would have improved the pace and held the reader's interest much better while still telling the tale. There were some surprising moments that pleased me, such as the author calling I enjoyed this book and I liked learning about a unsung branch of the AEF during WWI, namely The Women of the US Army Signal Corps. The book was well written and well researched. However, it was also overlong, plodding, and redundant in many places. It could have used a good pruning to reduce it by about a third, which would have improved the pace and held the reader's interest much better while still telling the tale. There were some surprising moments that pleased me, such as the author calling out President Woodrow Wilson for hypocrisy regarding his rhetoric vs actual treatment of Black soldiers who were not only segregated, but assigned to the most menial tasks. There is such focus today on the evils of the Founding Fathers, that more recent examples of racism are overlooked. I also had to smile at the pompous renaming of streets in Cincinnati that were German in origin to more "American" sounding names, as we are in currently in the throes of the so-called "Cancel Culture" movement which seeks to change "offensive" street and place names with more "native" sounding names! The fact that such ridiculous paranoia is a besetting problem for Americans of every political agenda, gives me hope that "this too shall pass!" Getting back to the book, another thing I really appreciated and which helped to boost my rating, was the complete lack of swearing, crude language, or sex. I admired the ethical code that these staunch women adhered to as a matter of course, and wish that their example were in greater evidence today in the armed forces and elsewhere! Lastly, this narrative is based on the lives of real women who feature in the book, giving it a great sense of genuine history. If you read BAND OF SISTERS, you will find this a good companion piece. I highly recommend it, especially as a book club read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn Martinez

    Switchboard Soldiers follows a group of women from the United States who laid the foundation that enables women today to enjoy the civil and workplace rights that we do. As a longtime fan of historical fiction, this book tempts me to dive into more formal war history as Chiaverini shows the power in reading about real wartime heroes. The three protagonists’ story lines intertwine beautifully with one another as Chiaverini takes readers through the last year of WWI in France and Germany. Both capt Switchboard Soldiers follows a group of women from the United States who laid the foundation that enables women today to enjoy the civil and workplace rights that we do. As a longtime fan of historical fiction, this book tempts me to dive into more formal war history as Chiaverini shows the power in reading about real wartime heroes. The three protagonists’ story lines intertwine beautifully with one another as Chiaverini takes readers through the last year of WWI in France and Germany. Both captivating and smooth to read, it’s very easy not to put this book down. I spent the second half of the book dreaming of what an incredible movie this story would make. I’m always eager to read the author’s note at the end to see how these historical figures’ lives played out after the war ended. This read was also easier to keep up with than Resistance Women, although it still took a few google searches to understand some of the military language that was new to me. This is more than a WWI read: it is story showcasing the humble female soldiers who paved the way for women being taken seriously in their professions, both within the military and in peacetime.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karen Levay

    I really learned a lot while reading this book. It is a fictional version of real events surrounding switchboard operators in France during WWI. Some of the characters are real and events are taken from their diaries and recollections. Some of the characters are fiction but based on real events and characteristics. These women were very proud to be soldiers and serve. They received commendations from those with whom they served. But even though they were told they had equivalent rank of an offic I really learned a lot while reading this book. It is a fictional version of real events surrounding switchboard operators in France during WWI. Some of the characters are real and events are taken from their diaries and recollections. Some of the characters are fiction but based on real events and characteristics. These women were very proud to be soldiers and serve. They received commendations from those with whom they served. But even though they were told they had equivalent rank of an officer, swore multiple oaths and were considered soldiers during their time of service, as is typical afterwards the government denied that they were ever enlisted and denied pensions and other pensions given to other veterans. The army claimed they were civilians serving under contract but never produced contracts as proof because they didn’t exist. Eventually, under Pres Carter they were recognized but most had passed away.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie Tulba

    My great-grandfather was a doughboy soldier in World War I and so I've always had an immense interest in the "war to end all wars," regularly lamenting over the dearth of historical fiction available on this particular time period and conflict. However, Ms. Chiaverini has remedied that with her absolutely wonderful and highly engrossing new tale about the brave and fascinating American women who went to France to serve as "switchboard soldiers." Just as women have routinely been "forgotten" and My great-grandfather was a doughboy soldier in World War I and so I've always had an immense interest in the "war to end all wars," regularly lamenting over the dearth of historical fiction available on this particular time period and conflict. However, Ms. Chiaverini has remedied that with her absolutely wonderful and highly engrossing new tale about the brave and fascinating American women who went to France to serve as "switchboard soldiers." Just as women have routinely been "forgotten" and "overlooked" from the annals of history, the women who served as the switchboard soldiers were no different so hopefully this great new tale will help in bringing the critical and amazing role they played during the Great War to light (think: they volunteered to go and serve in a warzone when they didn't even have the right to vote at home). Chiaverini is one of my all-time favorite historical fiction authors and Switchboard Soldiers is testament to why this is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine M in Texas

    1917 General Pershing needed operators to help communicate with the American forces throughout Europe. The operators had to be able to speak fluent French and English and take information and keep classified information safe. At this time in History the American operators were women but could not be in the army, let alone vote. Options were very limited. The U. S. Army Signal Corps needed women and started recruiting them. Thousands of women applied, but this story follows three main characters. 1917 General Pershing needed operators to help communicate with the American forces throughout Europe. The operators had to be able to speak fluent French and English and take information and keep classified information safe. At this time in History the American operators were women but could not be in the army, let alone vote. Options were very limited. The U. S. Army Signal Corps needed women and started recruiting them. Thousands of women applied, but this story follows three main characters. Grace is from New Jersey and has college degree. Marie is a French women who wants to sing in the opera. The last lady Valerie was a telephone operator from Los Angeles. The ladies known as the Switchboard Soldiers were sworn in to the U. S. Army and faced some major challenges. They worked with war all around them and diseases spreading amongst them. The Switchboard Soldiers were crucial in the war. Meticulously researched and gave me an insight to something I had never known about.

  30. 4 out of 5

    J Kropa

    Loved hearing stories of what might have been. Author admits they are composite characters, based on her research, but they were easy to identify with. Reminds us that war continued right up to the armistice, and not everyone got the recognition they deserved. My husband commented that if these women were British, someone would already have made a mini-series about them. Hope someone in the USA will be able to create a mini-series with these fine characters.

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