There are so many books about WWII. I have read many, and I am sure anyone who has gone to school or is even a light reader has read a work of fiction about it.
Sarah Blake does a good job with using it as the setting for “The Postmistress,” without making the topic seem stale. Although, thinking about it, it would be an effort to make such a time period and war stale.
The book surrounds the lives of three women who are connected by the war. There’s Frankie Bard, an American journalist who travels across Europe reporting on the war; Emma Fitch, the wife of a doctor who leaves her in the small town of Franklin, Mass., to put his doctoring skills to use in Europe; and Iris James, Franklin’s postmaster (or postmistress as she would be called in London).
It’s a story about the power of news, and the power given to those to deliver it. Frankie is a radio reporter, delivering accounts of what the Jews attempting to leave Europe are going through and the impact the war is having abroad (this is all before U.S. involvement) and Iris is tasked with making sure the news is delivered to and from the residents of Franklin through a smooth and perfect postal service.
Both Frankie and Iris end up having to make a decision about whether to keep the same piece of news they discover to themselves or to share it.
Blake is an excellent and beautiful written and I really enjoyed the flow of the story.
It was a read that really made you think, in part about how times have changed how news is disseminated — now we watch TV or check the Web for news reports more than listening to the radio and mailing letters is becoming a lost art. It’s also about the simple face of war, and how when it is being fought on a different coast, we can feel disconnected from it. Another thing to reflect on as our troops remain in Afghanistan.
The biggest complaint I had about the novel was the character development. I felt like I knew and understood Frankie, Emma and Iris, but their background’s weren’t as clear to me and they didn’t seem as real as I would have liked. Sometimes Iris and Frankie would confuse me with their attitudes and actions. There were a few times Frankie said things or had conversations with people that I just didn’t see happening in real life.
But overall a really great read. Also, have tissues handy with this one.
Quotable: “Every story — love or war — is about looking left when we should have been looking right.”
Three stars out of five