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The Postmistress: 02/22/12

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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake is a World War Two novel set in both Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and London, England. The book opens with Postmistress Iris James pocketing a letter. The rest of the book is the dramatization of what that letter contains and the aftermath of Iris not delivering it.

Although Iris is the titular character, her position in the novel is mostly that of bookends. The main protagonist is actually reporter Frankie Bard, a woman sent throughout Europe to report on the war. She is working for Edward R. Murrow. But there so many stories of brave men and women doing things on the front line and so few stories of the people left stateside that I was hoping to hear more of Iris.

It takes half of the book for the narrative to sort itself and find its rhythm. Besides Iris and Frankie, there is also a doctor. For the longest time I couldn't place where he fit into the story. While Frankie is traveling by train throughout Europe, the crux of the story isn't her journey, it's the fate of that doctor. The Postmistress should made that fact clearer through tighter editing in the first half.

Once the letter has been played out as an extended flashback with multiple points of view, the novel settles into the final act — the aftermath of the letter not being delivered.

Frankie, as an eyewitness, feels compelled to deliver a handwritten note, thus undoing the subterfuge of Iris. Her journey to Cape Cod both as a bearer of news as well as a radio celebrity and war hero creates a palpable tension. This section of the novel is how the whole thing should have been like.

Three stars.

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Monday, February 27, 2012 at 13:09:06


I really liked this book, but I thought Frankie's story was the strongest and most interesting.

Comment #2: Monday, February 27, 2012 at 17:28:30


I liked Frankie's story as well but felt its presentation was a bit of a bait and switch.

Comment #3: Friday, March 02, 2012 at 00:22:12


So sorry this didn't live up to full potential for you. I still want to read it ... someday. :-)

Comment #4: Sunday, March 04, 2012 at 21:05:02


The Postmistress is still a good novel but it's not the novel described on the back of the book.

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