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The Operator

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  657 ratings  ·  266 reviews
A clever, surprising, and ultimately moving debut novel, set in a small Midwestern town in the early 1950s, about a nosy switchboard operator who overhears gossip involving her own family, and the unraveling that discovery sets into motion.

In a small town, everyone knows everyone elses business . . .

Nobody knows the people of Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard operator
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by William Morrow
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 ·  657 ratings  ·  266 reviews

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In the 1950s, small town telephone switchboard operator Vivian Dalton habitually listens in on calls. One day she hears a piece of gossip about her family that disrupts her life. Unfortunately, what she hears isnt revealed in the book until about the 40% point. Once it was finally revealed, the secrets about the townsfolk just kept coming.

The backstories of some of the characters in this book turn out to be slightly deeper and more serious than they first appear from the simplistic manner in
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Operators listening in on conversations?

Its the 1950s, and that could be done with a simple "number please." The operators could also disconnect a call too.

What if you heard something in a conversation about you? Would you keep listening to conversations? Would you try to do something about what you heard?

Vivian was devastated when she listened to a conversation and found out she was the topic of some gossip and gossip she wanted to keep under wraps even though she knew it would spread like
Set in 1950s Wooster, Ohio, The Operator is a story about evesdropping and gossiptwo of my favorite pasttimes! Vivian Dalton, a switchboard operator uses her job to "innocently" spy on callers and her peers in the neighborhood. Usually, the gossip is all just fodder, until one night where Vivian hears a call from her frenemy Betty Miller and finds out something that will change her life forever.

The Operator is a cute, lighter read (in my opinion) and a nice debut by Gretchen Berg. Although
Vivian Dalton is a switchboard operator in the small town of Wooster, Ohio. She knows the people of her town quite well--thanks in no small part to the eavesdropping she and the other women do while working at Bell. Usually it's pretty harmless, but that all changes one December night when Vivian listens in on a call between Betty Miller--a rich woman whom she despises--and someone else, whom she doesn't recognize. Their conversation reveals a shocking secret that affects Vivian personally and, ...more
Melissa Rochelle
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-2019
Lesson learned: Eavesdropping and gossiping will only get you into trouble and karma is a b!tch.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a clever, witty, snarky little piece of fiction! I have always been fascinated with the 1950's, and this book pulls all of the best and worst of that era. Phone operators had the most exciting job, as the way one made a phone call then was to dial the operator and say "number please." Who wouldn't listen on calls?! That's a temptation I wouldn't be able to pass up either ...

In The Operator, there isn't anyone who knows the citizens of small town Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard
Davida Chazan
It isn't often that a debut novel will get 5/5 stars from me, but when it does, I know I've found a new favorite author. My #bookreview of this book is on my blog here.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excuse me while I yell my exuberance at you, I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED MY TIME SPENT READING THIS NOVEL SET IN THE 1950s! Whew! Vivian Dalton, a mother with middle-child syndrome, has a fondness for listening into conversations. Thankfully, she finds the perfect/worst job as a telephone operator. Until the wrong/right conversation spurs on shenanigans. A drunken Santa, a bank robbery, and Orson Welles broadcast of The War of the Worlds; its all here in this character-driven novel, that you might/must ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not love this story more. First the setting of Wooster Ohio, is just thirty minutes from where I grew up and my grandmother was a telephone operator, so you had me at HELLO! Anyone who has lived in a small town will know that everyone seems to be everyone's business. Vivian Dalton has been told to mind her own business a time of two since she was a young girl, but she still loves to eavesdrop, even if she often regrets it. The story is so cleverly told with each chapter revealing another ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you Net Galley for an ARC of this novel. Vivian Dalton is a switchboard operator who eavesdrops on conversations on a daily basis. One of these eavesdropping sessions upends Vivian's life with a revelation involving her family. At times funny, I could not really get invested in the characters, finding many of them unlikable. I could not muster much sympathy for Vivian. There was also story withing a story about bank embezzelment that I found very confusing, and did not tie into the main ...more
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was so much more than I expected. About switchboard operator Vivian Dalton who listens in on the phone calls. When she over hears talk about her own family, secrets she wants to keep hidden it sets this story in motion. A very creative plot. I had a party line growing up and I admit I have picked up the receiver and listened in. This was a nice flash back into the past. I really enjoyed it.

Novels N Latte
Hudson Valley NY
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is set in the early 1950's Ohio, where Vivian is an operator for Bell Telephone. She often listens in on the calls that come through the switchboard, until she overhears a shocking tidbit of information about a family secret that will change everything. Recommended for readers who enjoy books by Elizabeth Strout, Anne Tyler, and Elizabeth Berg. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC.
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own-read, 2020
So you know when you are so excited for a book, you start smiling the second you sit down, and then you crack open to start reading. Its such a great feeling when you know you are about to be taken on an amazing journey. The worst feeling is when that doesnt end up happening and you have a hard time getting though the book you were super excited to read.

Unfortunately that happened to me when I went to read The Operator by Gretchen Berg. This book was kindly sent to me after I requested it
Ashley *Booksbrewsandbarks*
I had very high hopes for this book, as I have always loved the idea of switchboard operators and the world in which they were integral to communication. While the way everything in this book ended up tying together quite well, it lacked in too many places for me. At the end of the day, there was just not enough of Vivian actually being a switchboard operator and the overall storyline didn't make up for that.

This book carries a number of mysteries throughout its pages, which will leave the
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
In a small town, everyone knows everyone elses business . . .

Nobody knows the people of Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard operator Vivian Dalton, and shed be the first to tell you that. She calls it intuition. Her teenage daughter, Charlotte, calls it eavesdropping.

Vivian and the other women who work at Bell on East Liberty Street connect lines and lives. They arent supposed to listen in on conversations, but they do, and they all have opinions on what they hearespecially Vivian. She knows
The Operator by Gretchen Berg is a lighthearted historical novel about gossip, eavesdropping and scandal. Vivian Dalton works as a telephone operator at Ohio Bell. She began eavesdropping on conversations at an earlier age and working at the telephone company allowed her to continue this hobby. Late one December evening, Vivian overhears a conversation between the hoity toity Betty Miller and a stranger. The stranger tells Betty a secret about Vivians family which, if it gets out, will embarrass ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2020; William Morrow/HarperCollins

Wow, The Operator really blew me away. I have to admit I requested this book just based on the gorgeous cover. I love old telephones, and's the history buff in me. This novel is set in a small town in America, in the 1950s, so I was sold! The music in the beginning of my audiobook, had me thinking this was a suspenseful novel...and it kind of was. The Operator is a lot like the novel, Olive Kitteridge in so many ways. Both are about
Kristin (Always With a Book)
It's no surprise that I love coming across debut novels and this one was such a delightfully fun look back a time when we didn't all have our own individual phones glued to our hands. I grew up in a house with nine people and remember not even having call waiting, so it was fun reliving this time when switchboard operators were still in existence.

I have lived in small towns all my life and so of course I was intrigued by this book and found it delivered on that end all the way. Add in the idea
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 enjoyed stepping back I time, war of the worlds, I love lucy, and those darn 7 layer bars I bet I make this afternoon!
Lady Delacour
Liked the
Book Jacket.
Enjoyed the
Quirky Story.
Did not care
for God and
Christ used
as bad words.
2 Ok Stars.
TTS Listen.
Foul Language
Nicole momming_and_reading
DNF @ pg 180. I wasnt into the plot and I felt the characters were just flat, annoying stereotypes of 1950s housewives.

Thanks to Bibliolifestyle & William Morris for the ARC so I could give my honest thoughts.
Tiffany Foskey
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gretchen Berg's debut novel is amazing!!!!!!!!! Wow the secrets that you find out from one little phone call!!!!!!! I read this book in 1 day and devoured it!!!!!!!!!!!
Vivian is a wife, mother, & switch board operator in the early 50's who has a bad habit of listening in to people's phone calls. Seems a little harmless at first because nothing exciting ever happens in her small town until the day she hears something that could tear her family & reputation apart!!! That little gossip
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Operator by Gretchen Berg is a hilarious, snarky, quick-paced literary treat. This is a historical fiction novel set in the early 1950s in small-town Wooster, Ohio and involves, amongst many supporting characters within the small town, Vivian and Betty. Both women are not particularly likable characters, and it is totally ironic that while both are rivals and dislike each other, they are more alike then they will ever realize. Both Vivian and Betty are insecure, gossipers that look down on ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Reading this book reminded me of sitting down with my Gram and listening to her stories. Imagine my delight when I finished the book to find out that the author loosely based everything on stories her own grandmother told her! This book will appeal to people, well, people like me. People who are in their mid-thirties. People who were close with their grandparents and got to hear their stories. People whose grandmothers spent time in the kitchen ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
I had been looking forward to reading The Operator, expecting something light, and quirky, perhaps with a bit of an edge, in a wholesome 1950s small town setting.

Thats not really what this is though. The Operator is satire, exploring the darker side of small town life that lurks beneath the veneer of respectability.

I struggled with The Operator, in large part because I didnt much care much for the characters. The residents of Wooster, Ohio, or at least those with whom we spend the most time,
Linda Smith
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and the flood of nostalgic memories that washed over me as I read it. It brought back flashbacks of my sisters and I hearing our Mom tell us about her days working the telephone switchboard in our small community. I'm positive that there was some listening in done! It also reminded me of days gone by when we had 'party lines ' and everyone knew everyone else's business but would never admit it. I believe that a novel is a success when it can readily evoke memories and ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. It was set in an area not even an hour from where I grew up and about 30 minutes from where I currently live so the setting was familiar.

Unfortunately, I just didn't love the story in general. Some things I did like...the growth Vivian showed from the beginning of the story to the end and the fact that Betty and her family (father) got what they deserved in the end.

Thank you to the Book Club Girl Early Read program for the advanced copy; all opinions are my
Jodie (thathappyreader)
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
As The Operator demonstrates, living in a small town brings with it the good and the bad. As telephone operators in Wooster, sometimes listening in to calls to learn the latest gossip is exciting - that is, unless the call is gossip about you and your family.
Vivian is the protagonist in this story and is a well-developed and interesting character - right down to her love of Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick and nail colour. Her story is set primarily in the 1950s but the author provides insight into
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won the Advanced Reader's Copy. (I noticed that the edition I read is shorter than the actual novel listed.)
I loved this book! The writing style, the characters, the plot. This is the best novel I've read about a small town's residents and the secrets they keep.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
A huge thank you to the Book Club Girl Early Reads program for a digital advanced reading copy of this book.

I really wanted to love this book about a busybody switchboard operator who listens in on the calls of people in her small town, but it was very difficult to get interested in for some reason. My grandma used to tell stories about one of her neighbors who would eavesdrop on the partyline and even have the nerve to interrupt calls to ask a question about what she heard so that is why I
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Gretchen spent many years working in the fields of education and travel. Her parents had always 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.

After finishing a humorous memoir in 2010 she ventured into the field

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