Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
First line: 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.
Iris James is the postmaster in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod. In her 40s and never married, her friendship with bachelor Harry Vale may just change that. She likes things to be done by the book, enjoys the organization her job requires, loves the idea that she brings order to her town’s correspondence – especially as Europe is at war, and it looks like the US will be following closely behind.
Emma is the new bride of the Franklin town doctor, Will Fitch. She’s just beginning to believe that she truly has a family now, a place in this town, when a tragedy sends Will to England to work as a doctor in a London being bombed to pieces.
Frankie Bard is one of a small group of female war correspondents. She’s determined to get the story out – to make her radio listeners back in the states pay attention to the true stories of the war. When her friend Harriet is killed, she takes up Harriet’s cause to tell the stories of the Jewish people of Europe, people who are desperate to get out while they still can.
These three women represent some of the faces of World War II, demonstrating that it isn’t only the men who fight whose lives are turned upside down by war. Though they start out as strangers, their lives will intersect in a way that will change each of them forever.
When it comes to books, sometimes hype is just hype. But sometimes hype is justified, and the hype surrounding The Postmistress certainly is. I have read a ton of World War II fiction. In fact, I think that is the era of history that I’ve read the most about, both fiction and non-fiction, and yet the stories never seem to run out. War seems to mine the extremes of human experience – the depths of despair and the heights of courage – and therefore the stories told about war can resonate very deeply when well-written and peopled with characters the reader can relate to.
In Iris, Emma, and Frankie, Sarah Blake has given us three wonderful female characters, women I could relate to and understand. I loved Iris’s New England stoicism. She is so determined to do everything by the book, logically and practically, and yet she falls so deeply for Harry. Emma’s desire for a family, for a place to belong, was touching – and her husband’s inability to provide for her the very things she needed most was heartbreaking. Frankie’s spirit and drive, her intensity, made her my favorite character of all.
Blake’s writing is descriptive and literary, but at the same time there is not a word to spare. Description, character development, setting details – each of these elements is exquisitely crafted to allow you be completely absorbed in the story. I could see Iris behind her counter at the post office, running the letters through the canceling machine. I could hear Frankie’s voice, see her hand gripping the microphone. I could feel Emma’s longing and fear. I knew these women as I read, and therefore I laughed, cried, feared, worried, and waited along with them. The Postmistress is truly historical fiction at it’s best.
The publisher is offering one copy to give away and I have an ARC copy of The Postmistress to give away:
~ This giveaway is limited to the US and Canada. (I will be mailing the ARC; the publisher will be mailing the finished copy, and it can take 6 to 8 weeks to arrive.)
~ To enter, simply leave a comment below specifying that you would like to be entered in the giveaway. One entry per person, please.
~ All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. PST, Friday, April 8, 2011. On April 9, 2011, I will use Random.org to choose two winners – the first will receive the finished copy, the second my ARC.
(A review copy of The Postmistress was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it for this blog tour. Many of the links on this site are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of these and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)