Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
My edition: Putnam Hardcover 2009
Borrowed From: The Hoboken Public Library
Synopsis (from Strand): As the dawn of World War II sweeps throughout Europe, Americans are still relatively at ease and holding fast to Roosevelt’s promise that we’d be safe at home. Though, one American radio reporter, Frankie Bard, whose been stationed in London is bent on extending warnings to those in Europe and back home. While many of these broadcasts go unheard, Franklin, MA, resident Iris James has heard the call and heeded the warnings. Along with Iris, whose concerns are still veiled behind feelings for a local mechanic, Will and Emma Fitchs’ lives are about to be changed by the warnings as well. In “The Postmistress” author Sarah Blake offers us a novel that shows us 4 lives forever changed and intertwined.
I read this because: I saw about 400 fantastic reviews, and had to check it out for myself. It also sounded like exactly the sort of novel that I would enjoy.
My thoughts: To put it very simply: I love this book. It was almost like I made a checklist of everything I’d love in a novel and Sarah Blake wrote it: Historical fiction, WWII, strong & likable characters, letters, a love story, multiple points of view, a small town on the Eastern seaboard.
I was craving a good novel, too. As much as I adore memoirs, poetry, non-fiction, food writing, short stories, etc; I often need a compulsively readable novel. I want to be told a story. From page one I was completely drawn into this story, and didn’t want to emerge from it to do things like eat, sleep and work.
One thing that this book made me think a lot about is our society’s relationship to the news. There are many people who follow world news extensively, but there are also a lot of people who don’t. (I’ll be the first to admit that I often fall into the latter category.) A common excuse is that “there’s too much sadness & bad news out there.” This book really brings that attitude into perspective, especially through the character Frankie Bard, who travels around Europe riding evacuation trains and interview people to find out their stories. Some (ok, most) of these stories are heartbreaking. No matter how much you don’t want to hear it, there are heartbreaking stories happening all over the world, right now. (The passage I quoted below relates to this.) It doesn’t mean we need to spend our whole life being sad about what happens in other areas of the world, but we can certainly try not to be blind to it, and we can do what’s in our power to be educated about what’s happening and help however possible.
Book club worthy? Yes.
You might like this book if you like: The Help, Water for Elephants and historical fiction in general.
My favorite passage:
I wanted to write about this somehow – this aspect of war and its terrifying accidents and how we come to terms with the fact that wars are being waged right now, even as I write (and you read) these words. How do we imagine that simultaneity? (page 324, from the afterword)