Switchboard Soldiers
by Chiaverini, Jennifer






In 1917, Grace Banker from N.J., Marie Moissec from France, and Valerie DeSmedt, originally from Belgium, are recruited as a telephone operators, aka switchboard solders, to help American forces communicate between troops as bombs fell around them. 150,000 first printing.





*Starred Review* Chiaverini (The Women's March, 2021) casts well-deserved light on a little-known group: the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, these "switchboard soldiers" responded to General Pershing's call for telephone operators to serve near the front lines, connecting calls between military commanders and troops in the field. Women had not yet been given the right to vote, let alone enlist, but the speed and efficiency of the American "hello girls'' far outpaced that of their male military counterparts. Chiaverini seamlessly blends fact and fiction as she illuminates the experiences of these heroic women, many of whom served near the front lines during key Allied offensives, through the perspectives of Grace Banker, a real-life AT&T switchboard instructor who earned a Distinguished Service Medal for her work in the Signal Corps, and her fictional colleagues Valerie DeSmedt and Marie Miossec. In addition to German bombs, the women also contended with the spreading influenza pandemic and rampant sexism. While they were not officially recognized as military veterans until more than 60 years after their service, the women of the Signal Corps paved the way for future generations of women. Chiaverini's many readers will appreciate her latest strong female characters as will fans of Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach (2017). Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





*Starred Review* Chiaverini (The Women's March, 2021) casts well-deserved light on a little-known group: the women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, these "switchboard soldiers" responded to General Pershing's call for telephone operators to serve near the front lines, connecting calls between military commanders and troops in the field. Women had not yet been given the right to vote, let alone enlist, but the speed and efficiency of the American "hello girls'' far outpaced that of their male military counterparts. Chiaverini seamlessly blends fact and fiction as she illuminates the experiences of these heroic women, many of whom served near the front lines during key Allied offensives, through the perspectives of Grace Banker, a real-life AT&T switchboard instructor who earned a Distinguished Service Medal for her work in the Signal Corps, and her fictional colleagues Valerie DeSmedt and Marie Miossec. In addition to German bombs, the women also contended with the spreading influenza pandemic and rampant sexism. While they were not officially recognized as military veterans until more than 60 years after their service, the women of the Signal Corps paved the way for future generations of women. Chiaverini's many readers will appreciate her latest strong female characters as will fans of Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach (2017). Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





A historical tale focuses on three women whose key roles as telephone operators helped lead the Allies to victory in World War I. Chiaverini's latest opens with Gen. John Pershing's 1918 call to arms for the "young women of America" to enroll in the American Expeditionary Forces in France. It was no secret that the most talented telephone operators at the time were female-the job required nimbleness, steady nerves, and a "smile in her voice"-and who better to translate French and English phone commands than American "hello girls"? New Jersey resident Grace Banker feels called to enlist on account of her French studies at Barnard, and her strong sense of patriotic duty soon promotes her to chief operator of the Signal Corps' First Unit to France. Valerie DeSmedt, a Los Angeles resident, hopes to honor her hometown of Brussels, which recently bore the kaiser's devastating onslaught. French singer Marie Miossec has only been in America for two years because of her father's transfer to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and she dashes a career in opera in order to aid the two countries she calls home. These three women, along with their fellow "switchboard soldiers," embark on a harrowing journey to France in wartime, experiencing the dangers of U-boats, outbreaks of the Spanish flu, and sexism: "You're a fine soldier, for a girl." Chiaverini weaves the intersecting threads of these brave women's lives together, highlighting their deep sense of pride and duty: "I might have said something about wanting to slap the kaiser," says one operator named Cora, "and since the army wouldn't let me carry a rifle, I'd fight the Germans with the telephone." Grace, Marie, and Valerie are strong characters, and their tender romantic relationships fit neatly among details of their war efforts. While a bit overlong and fraught with extraneous day-to-day minutiae, Chiaverini's story will strike a chord with history buffs, and many will be surprised that such an essential crew of soldiers went virtually unrecognized after the war. An eye-opening and detailed novel about remarkable female soldiers. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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