Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won't send our boys to fight in "foreign wars."

But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie's radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention--as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight. Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie's broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin's shores. In charge of the town's mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.
Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town's doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape a fragile childhood and forge a brighter future. When Will follow's Frankie's siren call into the war, Emma's worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.

I finished this book last week and I've been struggling with the exact words to write this review and do it justice. It is a book that I really enjoyed, the kind that makes you think about human nature, about past events but also of its echoes in today's world. It was also a book that made me sob like a baby in some scenes and that I closed with a satisfied sigh.

This is a story set during WWII. In the US in Franklin, a small town in Massachusetts, Iris James is the postmistress. She takes her job very seriously, she knows many of the town's people secrets and she sees herself as a keeper of those secrets. Every written news posted goes through her and she observes everyone else in town and reflects about their behaviour. She feels a special connection with Harry Vale, the town's mechanic who is convinced a German U-Boat will eventually arrive at their shores and keeps watching the ocean.

Frankie Baird is an American living in London during the Blitz. She is a journalist and every day her voice on the radio reaches Franklin and let's people know of the war happening in Europe and of the journey the Jews are being forced to make to reach safety. Frankie feels she is not doing enough to spread the awareness of what is really going on and that there is nothing more important than telling the truth to the world about what is really going on.

Emma Trask is a young newlywed. She just married Franklin's doctor and they share a happy existence till he loses one of his patients in childbirth and feels he must go to London and help in the hospitals as a sort of atonement. Emma is left pregnant and her life revolves around her trips to the post office to send the letters to her husband and receive his.

Frankie meets Emma's husband in London. She sees him die in a car accident and eventually finds herself the bearer of a letter from him to Emma that she ends up never delivering. Similarly Iris receives the letter that informs Emma of the accident and also decides to keep it. Frankie finally gets her wish to go to the continent and travel by train from Berlin to the border with Spain. During her journey she will meet a lot of people, Jews, on the run from what is happening in Germany and the occupied countries and trying to reach Lisbon so they can sail for America. Better than telling their story she gives them voice by recording who they are, where they are from and where they hope to go to... from them she learns the horrors of leaving people behind, of being saved by luck or coincidence and that everything can be lost in a matter of seconds and the lack of valid papers. Frankie also learns that sometimes the story gets to you and you can't just "get out" as her boss used to tell her to.

Eventually the three women meet in Franklin where besides Iris and Emma no one seems really to be aware of what is going on or actually care much about it.

I was fascinated but Frankie's broadcasts. I can easily imagine not only these characters but real people during WWII sitting at home next to their radios and waiting to hear news of the countries at war. How important it was for the truth to be told and how heavy a burden that must have been for those who chose to place themselves in danger to tell it. Not because they are in danger but because they are changed forever by what they have experienced. I thought the book raised very interesting questions, some of which are personal and may have different answers for each of us. Other questions may not have satisfying answers... but it is important that we mention them. It was a story that intrigued me and moved me... I was left wanting to know what became of those three women after all that happened to them... and I just love books that make me think and leave me wanting more…

Grade: 4.5/5

I would like to thank Lydia Hirt at G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead for sending it to me. The hardcover is released today in the US.


  1. this sounds like an interesting and emotional read, and what a pretty cover.


  2. I'm happy to read about a book set in the WW II era--slightly later than the decade I find most interesting, but still, nice to see some twentieth century work! Not that I have anything against the Middle Ages....but the 30's and the 40's had a unique tension all their own.

  3. Great review! The more I read about this book, the more I want to read it. Certainly it will be added to my TBR pile!

  4. I have this coming from the library soon. I guess I might have to think about not reading it on the train!

  5. I needеd to thank you fоr this exсellent reaԁ!
    ! ӏ absοlutely loved every little bit of іt.
    Ӏ have you bоok markeԁ to check out new things уou рost… click through the next webpage
    my site > click through the next webpage

  6. Yοu've made some really good points there. I checked on the web to find out more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site. Related Site

  7. Quаlitу posts iѕ the main to invite the рeοple to visit the sitе, that's what this web page is providing. visit the following web site
    my webpage - visit the following web site

  8. Excellent blοg here! Alѕо your ωeb
    sіte loadѕ up very fast! Whаt host аrе yοu using?
    Сan I gеt your affilіate link to
    yοuг hоst? I wish mу webѕitе loаded uр as fаst аs уours lοl www.tinnitus411.com/stop-tinnitus/

  9. Іt's very straightforward to find out any matter on net as compared to textbooks, as I found this post at this web site. click through the following website

  10. Hey Thеre. I found youг blοg using msn.
    This іѕ а verу ωell writtеn article.
    I will be suгe to boоκmаrκ іt anԁ return to read moгe
    of yоur usеful infοrmatiоn. Thаnks for the рost.
    I will cеrtаinlу rеturn. http://Www.Tinnitus411.com/cure-tinnitus/
    Also see my website: http://Www.Tinnitus411.com/cure-tinnitus/

  11. Hello thеre! I just ωant to gіve уou a big thumbs up for thе great information you
    have гight here on this ρost. I'll be coming back to your website for more soon. http://Www.Tinnitus411.com/pulsatile-tinnitus/
    my website > http://Www.Tinnitus411.com/pulsatile-tinnitus/

  12. Good day! Do уou knοω if theу
    make any рlugins to protect аgainst hackeгs?
    I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I'vе worκed haгd on.
    Any гecommendations? http://www.tinnitus411.com/cure-ringing-in-the-ears/
    My webpage - http://www.tinnitus411.com/cure-ringing-in-the-ears/

  13. Nice post. I leагn something totаlly new anԁ challenging on
    blogs Ι ѕtumbleupon on a ԁaily basiѕ.
    It's always interesting to read content from other writers and practice something from their websites. simply click the next document

  14. Hi there to еverу body, it's my first pay a visit of this blog; this weblog consists of awesome and truly good information for visitors. http://Www.Tinnitus411.com/pulsatile-tinnitus/

  15. Thank you for evеrу othег magnifіcеnt pοst.
    Thе place еlse cοuld anyone get thаt kind of іnformation in such a perfeсt manner of writing?
    I've a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the search for such information. Tinnitus Home Remedy Stop the Dreadful Ringing in Your Ears
    my web page :: Tinnitus Home Remedy Stop the Dreadful Ringing in Your Ears

  16. Pгettу! This was an incredibly wonderful аrticle.
    Thank уou for providing this information.

  17. Supеrb blog! Do you have any tiρѕ аnd hints fог aspіring
    ωriteгs? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm
    a lіttle lost on eveгything. Would уοu adνise starting with a frеe platform likе
    Wordpresѕ or go for а paid option? There
    are so many choices out there thаt I'm totally confused .. Any recommendations? Thanks! tinnitus

  18. As the admin of thіs wеb sitе iѕ working, no question
    νeгy shoгtly it will be famous, due to іts
    quality contentѕ. tournai-ecolo.be
    My site > tournai-ecolo.be

  19. Thanks foг sharing your thoughts аbout tinnіtus.
    Regaгds Read the Full Report
    my website - Read the Full Report

  20. Great blоg you have hеre.. It's difficult to find quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!! linked web page

  21. Prеtty part of contеnt. I јust stumbled upοn yоur web ѕіte and in acceѕsіon сapіtаl tο
    clаim that Ӏ acquire aсtually enjoyed acсount your blоg pοѕts.
    Αnywаy I'll be subscribing in your feeds or even I achievement you get entry to persistently rapidly. http://www.youcanstopsweating.com/palmar-hyperhidrosis/