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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
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The Postmistress (edition 2010)

by Sarah Blake

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,4412102,530 (3.49)1 / 187
Member:seekingflight
Title:The Postmistress
Authors:Sarah Blake
Info:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2010), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:read, fiction, historical fiction, journalism, WWII, @Wollongong

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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

  1. 221
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both novels reflect on World War II from small, seaside towns, one an island in Europe, the other a small town in Cape Cod. The female leads are unique and interesting and are surrounded by great small town people.
  2. 40
    The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (kiwiflowa)
    kiwiflowa: both have female protagonists and are about the London Blitz during WWII
  3. 00
    Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (generalkala)
  4. 03
    Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (starfishian)
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Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
This novel was slow to get going but once I was into it, I quite enjoyed it. It alternates between Cape Cod and Europe torn apart by war. It alternates between Iris James, the postmistress in cape Cod and Emma Fitch , the doctor;s young bride and Frankie Baird, an American reporter working with Ed Murrow in Europe. It tells a story of how war goes on around us while life continues. Frankie's broadcasts are heard in the small coastal town. These women's lives come together with the mail and letters telling Emma about her husband's death including the letter Frankie Baird and Iris never deliver. ( )
  Smits | Apr 22, 2015 |
Sarah Blake is clearly a supremely skilled writer and I can only assume this book was researched deeply (with the exception of the Keep Calm poster slip-up). I enjoyed the tale of WWII played out on both a European and Cape Cod stage. However, for me, the story would have been more compelling with fewer switches in point of view - perhaps just 2 main characters would have sufficed. And although I enjoyed Blake's descriptive technique and similes, the fact that I noticed them made me wonder if she had overdone the literary flair. Finally, with the huge stakes of the time in question, I was ultimately disappointed with the nature of the letter Postmistress chose to keep, and the impact of keeping it from the intended recipient. Since this was introduced as the whole point of the book in Chapter 1, I was underwhelmed. ( )
  paulinewiles | Jan 26, 2015 |
“War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever." – Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War

It’s 1940, and Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts.
Frankie Bard, also American and an aspiring young journalist, leaves the comforts of home and travels to Europe where there is nothing between her and the war. Almost immediately, she finds herself employed in radio. Broadcasting from overseas, Frankie begs listeners to pay heed: to the London Blitz, to the unthinkable persecution of Jews right across Europe. But her story falls on the deaf ears of naiveté. Back home, the people of Franklin do not believe the war can touch them. Iris James, like Frankie, also has a story to tell about the war – stories which arrive daily and have yet to be imagined by the townspeople of Franklin. There will come a time for both women, when, in spite of their jobs, they find themselves unable to deliver the news.

What I Liked/Didn’t: Having read other novels about the London Blitz, Humphries’ Coventry comes to mind, I was familiar with several of the historical markers in The Postmistress. I like the idea that war happens to people, one by one, and I think Blake did well to choose a small town to illustrate the theme. Unfortunately, outside of Frankie, I did not find any of the characters particularly interesting. And the notion of tampering with the mail – even with good intention – is simply not one I find very credible. ( )
2 vote lit_chick | Jan 18, 2015 |
There will be plenty of readers who will love this, but unfortunately it wasn’t my cup of tea. The story sounded interesting enough – an American view of WWII at a stage when they were not actively involved, but some people feared a Nazi invasion at any time. I followed it – just about – but found the writing style difficult to negotiate. This was imagery that was designed to challenge rather than to enlighten. Its very first line perplexed me with reference to someone returning to “the busy blank of the city” – a piece of imagery that didn’t work on any level in my head. It was a bit like arriving at a party and snagging my tights on the door frame. It set the tone for the whole experience.

It wasn’t totally negative – there were scattered examples of really powerful writing – wartime London, the woman and her son on the train to Spain, the birth-gone-wrong, Iris wondering whether to get her certificate out or not. But ultimately it remained words on a page, because I could not get close to any of these characters. They didn’t converse as normal people do –for example the conversation between Frankie and Iris in chapter 25 felt nothing like a normal conversation and every bit like twin mouthpieces of an author with Something Big to say. I fear the message may have been wasted on me. ( )
  jayne_charles | Dec 24, 2014 |
There were parts of this book that were absolutely amazing and then parts that were snore worthy! The worst part for me was that it seemed so unorganized. Not enough character building and too much jumping from one person's view to the next and never knowing who was speaking. I kept listening in hopes that it would get better as I said there were some great parts and it had wonderful potential, but in the end no cigar! ( )
  AMKee | Oct 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
Sarah Blake has coaxed forth a book that hits hard and pushes buttons expertly. Not for nothing does its publisher emphasize the resemblance between “The Postmistress” and “The Help,” Kathryn Stockett’s socially conscious pulp best seller. Each of these novels appropriates galvanizing social issues in the service of a well-wrought tear-jerker.
 
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Epigraph
War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.
--Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War
Dedication
For Josh, always
First words
There were years after it happened, after I'd returned from the town and come back here to the busy blank of the city, when some comment would be tossed off about the Second World War and how it had gone - some idiotic remark about clarity and purpose - and I'd resist the urge to stub out my cigarette and bring the dinner party to a satisfying halt.
Quotations
Murrow's three questions, which formed the basis for every broadcast – What is happening? How does it affect Americans? What does the Common Man say – didn't cohere in the face of this one. The scraps added up to a terrible time for the Jews, any man at home could see.
48.(husband who escaped,
Must be tough not to know what happened, not to know whether he's all right.” … “It gets you thinking about all the parts in a story we never see … the parts around the edges. You bring someone like that boy so alive before us and there he is set loose in our world so that we can't stop thinking of him. But then the report is over, the boy disappears. He was just a boy in a story and we never know the ending, we never get to close the book. It makes you wonder what happens to the people in them after the story stops – all the stories you've reported, for instance. Where are they all now?
And what had Frankie thought? That she'd get over here and find the single story that would make the world sit up and listen? These are the Jews of Europe. Here is what is happening. Pay attention. But there was no story. Or rather, she turned from the window and considered the portable recorder. There was no story over here that she could tell from beginning until the end. The story of the Jews lay in the edges around what could be told. She sucked in her breath, the doctor's words ghosting her thoughts. The parts that whisper off into the dark, the boy and the girl listening, the woman in the corner, the mother's distracted face looking up into the moonlight, her hand in her boy's curls as he slept. The sound of that little boy's laughter caught for one impossible second, caught and held. There in the wisps, was the truth of what was happening.
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Book description
1940. De Amerikaanse radiojournaliste Frankie Bard verslaat vanuit Londen als een van de eerste vrouwen de oorlog. Terwijl er elke nacht bommen vallen en joodse vluchtelingen in paniek door Europa vluchten, probeert Frankie het juiste verhaal te vinden dat Amerika tot actie zal bewegen. Aan de andere kant van de oceaan, in Franklin, Massachusetts, luistert Iris James naar Frankies uitzendingen. Ze weet dat het een kwestie van tijd is voor de oorlog ook haar dorp bereikt en als hoofd van het postkantoor ziet ze het als haar taak om andermans geheimen te bezorgen en te bewaren. Ook het doktersechtpaar Will en Emma Fitch luistert elke avond naar Frankie. Wanneer Will besluit haar woorden ter harte te nemen en naar het front te gaan, botsen de levens van de drie vrouwen op onverwachte wijze. De laatste brief is een verhaal over sterke vrouwen, de impact van oorlog en het belang van nieuws. Zelfs nieuws dat de geadresseerde nooit bereikt... 'Geweldige boeken zorgen ervoor dat je ze mist, tot het moment dat je weer het verhaal in kunt kruipen. De laatste brief is zo'n zeldzaam boek. Als ik het niet aan het lezen was, dacht ik er wel aan. Een prachtig geschreven, ontroerende roman die ik iedereen aanraad.' Kathryn Stockett, auteur van Een keukenmeidenroman 'Sarah Blake heeft een zeer aangrijpend boek geschreven, waarmee ze op vakkundige wijze tot haar lezers doordringt. De ware kracht van De laatste brief ligt in het feit dat het de lezer niet toestaat blasé te zijn over verhalen uit oorlogstijd. Sarah Blake schrijft krachtig over hoe fragiel het leven is en over de manier waarop Frankie probeert over te brengen aan het thuisfront hoe iemand er het ene moment nog kan zijn en het volgende voorgoed verdwenen is.' The New York Times 'Door de verhalen van drie zeer verschillende vrouwen die losjes in elkaar haken te verweven, neemt debutant Blake haar lezers mee naar beurtelings het dorpsleven in Amerika en het door oorlog geteisterde Europa van 1940. Blake weet deze verschillende werelden precies te grijpen: een naïef land dat de realiteit niet onder ogen wil zien en, aan de andere kant van de oceaan, een continent dat wordt verscheurd door angst. Ze doet dat met een uitstekend gevoel voor personages en plot, en met de volledige bereidheid zich te storten op grote, complexe kwesties, zoals de waarde van het vertellen van de waarheid in oorlogstijd.' Publishers Weekly 'Een schitterend boek over de kracht van woorden en hoe deze mensen en de wereld om hen heen kunnen beïnvloeden.' USA Today Sarah Blake is geboren in New York waar ze Engels gaf op een middelbare school en aan de universiteit. Tegenwoordig woont ze in Washington met haar man en twee kinderen.

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In London covering the Blitz with Edward R. Murrow, Frankie Bard meets a Cape Cod doctor in a shelter and promises that she'll deliver a letter for him when she finally returns to the United States. Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, "The Postmistress" is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women--and of two countries torn apart by war.… (more)

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