Girls on the Line by Aimie K. Runyan

Publication Info: Published November 6th 2018 by Brilliance Audio. Other editions available. I listened to the audio edition through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Summary: After Ruby Wagner’s brother is killed in one of the earliest battles in World War I, she decides to follow in his footsteps and aid her country in the war effort. She reads a notice that the Army Signal Corps is looking for female switchboard operators.

Ruby currently works as a switchboard operator for the local telephone company in Philadelphia. Thanks to her upwardly mobile mother, Ruby is also fluent in French and has excellent elocution. Ruby takes the exams and passes with flying colors. Much to her parents’ dismay, Ruby heads near the front lines in France, connecting calls and translating messages between Generals. She is also assigned to be the leader of her group, sometimes making difficult decisions as she balances duty with the women’s personal needs.

As part of the Main Line in Philadelphia, Ruby’s life was mapped out for her by her parents. They encouraged an engagement to a suitable young man and Ruby feels duty-bound to see the marriage through if they both survive the war. But the social changes brought about by the war, her new-found inner strength and her relationship with a young medic make her question the path she was expected to follow.

Comments: When I picked up Girls on the Line , I didn’t have high expectations, despite the glowing reviews on Amazon. And indeed, for the first few chapters of the book, the story seemed a bit simplistic and predictable. I was also put off by the narrator’s clipped tones. But as I got into the story, I not only came to feel deeply for the characters, but I also learned a lot.

My schooling rather breezed through World War I, and being a child of the 60’s, I wasn’t taught about women’s accomplishments. I’d never heard of the Hello Girls, the group of women on which this novel was based. The author does a credible job of bringing their experiences to life and it is obvious she did a lot of research. In the afterward, Runyan discusses some of the material she had access to as she wrote their story.

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, especially novels concentrating on World War I.

My rating: 5 Stars

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