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The Postmistress (edition 2010)
by Sarah Blake
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Female Protagonist (267)
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Historical Fiction (636)
Female Author (1,097)
This was a beautifully written book but it left me dissatisfied after reading it. This books is about the era immediately preceeding WWII. If you read many books about this era - fiction or non-fiction - you are used to reading about the death of characters in the book. But this book included the death of a character that left this reader feeling manipulated. ( )
This was a WWII novel that went between the US and England during the Blitz. It was a good read.
World War II historical fiction set in 1941 in both a small town near Boston and London during the Blitz. The story focuses on five people, four of whom live in a small town in Massachusetts. Iris is the postmaster, who exhibits an almost obsessive need for order. Will is the local doctor, trying to overcome his father’s tainted reputation. Emma is Will’s bride, an orphan dealing with abandonment issues. Harry is Iris’ love interest, a mechanic who is convinced the Nazis will invade the U.S. via submarine so he is keeping a lookout. Frankie is a female war correspondent, living in London, working with Edward R. Murrow, and broadcasting vignettes of what life is like during the bombing of London. The plot revolves around Frankie’s increasing disillusionment with war, feeling more and more helpless as the story progresses. Will attempts to atone for what he views as a medical mistake, causing trauma for his wife. Iris must confront her desire for control and order as the war starts touching her small sphere of influence. The stories of these people come together through listening to Frankie’s broadcasts and delivering personal news via letters and telegrams. This story follows people on the fringes of the war and does not venture into any of the military battles or concentration camps. According to the author in The Story Behind the Story, “It’s about the lies we tell others to protect them, and about the lies we tell ourselves in order not to acknowledge what we can’t bear.”
This book is a mixed bag. Where it is the most successful is in showing the differences in perspective between the United States on the Home Front before getting involved in the war, and what was going on in Europe: almost daily bombing raids in London, trying to retain some sense of normalcy while dealing with random death, and refugees fleeing the Nazis. The scenes in London seem realistic. It clearly shows how life changes when it is threatened at any moment versus the attitude of watchful waiting in the States prior to Pearl Harbor, when Americans were trying to assimilate the news they were hearing from overseas. One area where it falls down is in its depiction of women in the 1940’s. They exhibit much more contemporary behavior in their language and actions. The sex scenes seem gratuitous (and cringeworthy) and some of the behavior of the war correspondent is pretty far-fetched. It is rather slow in building momentum, the pacing is uneven, and there are many passages that do not add anything to the story. Overall, this book contains an admirable concept that falls short in the execution.
A novel about three American women during the second world war, two of whom are rather boring and live in Massachusetts and one of whom is more interesting and does some gripping journalism from Europe. One of the two in America is a postmistress who doesn’t deliver a letter. It didn’t really engage me.
A very well-written book about the emotional costs of war, both on the front and at home. I loved the characters and the New England setting. I'm planning to choose something upbeat and a little fluffy to read next though because the ending was a little depressing.
That being said, I'm glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction. I added Grange House, Blake's previous novel, to my reading list based on this book. I'll also keep an eye out for her next novel.
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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Wikipedia in English (1)
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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.