The Postmistress [Book Review]

Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 0399156194
Pages: 336
Year: 2010
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Publisher’s Summary:

On the eve of the United States’s entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn’t deliver a letter.

In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.

The residents of Franklin think the war can’t touch them- but as Frankie’s radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen.

My Thoughts:

I think I waited too long to review this book. I know I really enjoyed it so let’s see if I can adequately articulate why.

After my initial annoyance that Franklin, MA was actually supposed to be  a fictionalized Provincetown despite the existence of a real Franklin elsewhere in Massachusetts, I grew to really enjoy this book. I don’t normally enjoy war novels and I probably liked this one because it wasn’t really a war novel. It was more the story of three women (the publisher says two but I say three) discovering who they really are that happens to take place with WWII as a backdrop. That’s not to say the war is not an important part of the story – it is – but it’s more of a vehicle for allowing the characters to develop than the central part of the story.

I love that it was set, in part, in Cape Cod. I have fond memories of Cape Cod and still look forward to my visits there. And it’s a good setting for the novel. Franklin is a small town in a remote location yet influenced by the actions taking place across the Atlantic.

I liked that there were strong women: Iris, who is not afraid to become the first female postmaster Franklin has seen; Frankie, braving the Blitz and traveling throughout Europe to capture the voices of those that might otherwise have been lost; and Emma, who less-obviously shows strength in the wake of loss. Yes, there were love stories. And yes, those were important. But this is not just a book about women finding and losing love. It’s about the women and how they change.

Ok, not super-thrilled with this review, but it will have to do. Just trust me when I say it was a good book, ok?

Memorable Passages:

That was it, wasn’t it? The nothing between. That scant air between the couple kissing this evening: their bodies leaning against each other before going underground was the same air between the gunners and the bombs, and it was the same air that carried her voice across the sea, on sound waves, to people listening in their chairs at home. 38

Though they were never going to be one of the boys, Frankie rather liked this no-man’s-land where she and Harriet reported from. She was a woman, sure. But this talk – the frank and curious talk of reporters, the drug of getting in there, getting it down, getting it – skeined between all of them, man or woman. 58

Surely God ought to look down and see that one part of the story had been separated from the other, and find a way, somehow, to put them side by side. How could He stand these gaps, these enormous valleys of silence? And Europe was full of people vanishing into this quiet. 196-7

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5 thoughts on “The Postmistress [Book Review]

  1. Dominique June 8, 2010 / 1:29 am

    I’m about 60 pages into this right now. It seems like it’s going to be really good but I’m having a bit of trouble getting in the mood to read it. I think it’s because I keep reading it while waiting for things eg at the doctor’s surgery. Great review, I loved the first quote you put down when I read it too.


    • Michelle June 8, 2010 / 9:30 am

      I think it picks up. I remember starting slowly, too. Hope you like it.


  2. Vishy June 12, 2010 / 11:22 am

    Interesting review! I have heard some great things about ‘The Postmistress’. Glad to know that you liked it too. I really liked the first quote you have given about the couple, the gunners and ‘her voice across the sea’.


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