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Book review: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

The Operator
Gretchen Berg
Hachette
$34.99

This book held so much promise! It looked exciting in the publisher’s summary and I was so very happy to see a copy arrive in the office for us to read.

I started just before COVID (and all that went with it) and I was not taken with the writing nor gripped by the plot. During lockdown I started again and found that I was just not interested. In fact I couldn’t read anything new during lockdown and returned instead to some of my old favourites.

So, when school holidays came around and I was looking for something to read I was so thrilled to find this book again at the bottom of my YTR (Yet To Read) pile. And then I went into a Paper Plus store and saw it on one of the recommended shelves and was further encouraged that I was going to love this book.

But (you knew there was going to be a but, right?) I discovered instead that my initial misgivings were right. This was not my type of book!

‘The Operator’ is a novel set in middle America in the 1950s and is based on the idea of small-town gossip. Vivian (who is a telephone exchange operator) wishes for something exciting to happen in her life, and she (apparently) gets her wish when she hears something life-changing while eavesdropping on other people’s conversations while at work.

Most readers will expect that the salacious gossip will be really juicy – but the author here prolongs the exposure of the secret (painfully) and when it’s finally revealed it was (for me) such a let-down.

In fact pretty much all of this book was a let-down. The character development was so lacking that I truthfully did not care what happened to any of the characters, and I really had no idea what motivated these characters to do what they do (both before and after the event that underpins this novel).

The fact that many of the characters are cast as dull, dim, shallow, mean, vapid women just didn’t sit well with me either. It’s like Berg just does not like her fellow women. There are none with redeeming characteristics, which made this read fall even flatter for me.

If there are people who enjoy a slow tale where no one really wins and life is just depressing, then this might be the book for you. As for me, I’ll take it as a win that I finished it, but that was the high point – finishing!

About Esther Perriam

Esther Perriam
Esther Perriam is a Director of Eldernet. She’s worked in the business for over 15 years and has been lucky to visit many of the older person’s services around the country. She’s never short of an opinion on…pretty much anything. Esther really loves reading and you’ll see plenty of book reviews authored by her. As a mother of two children there’s not much free time but if there is she also enjoys cooking (for grown-ups, not the kids!) and anything beach related in her spare time. Esther has presented at conferences around New Zealand and is happy to be contacted in regards to speaking or presenting at your event.

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