The oldest and most enduring human story is the war story; for every ten thousand or so stories of the exploits of brave men in battle there is perhapThe oldest and most enduring human story is the war story; for every ten thousand or so stories of the exploits of brave men in battle there is perhaps one of the women left on the sidelines. The Postmistress tells the story of three American Penelopes on the eve of our entrance into WWII, each of them waiting for something, left behind in different ways.
Framing the tale is Frankie Bard, a New York journalist who impetuously showed up at Edward Murrow's studio in London to try to bring the realty of war in Europe to the still-unmoved folks back home. While reporting on conditions in the besieged city, Frankie's path crosses that of an American doctor who has left his bride, Emma, back home in Massachusetts while he works in London, seeking moral redemption after losing a patient. This chance encounter connects Frankie's destiny to Emma's as she hunts for the right story on a refugee train from Germany.
Emma, left all alone in a strange town while her husband seemingly tilts at windmills, is the clearest Penelope of this story. She waits, staring out across the Atlantic, painting her house a bright white so that her prodigal husband can more easily find his way home. Her story is the one we have come to expect from war stories about the women left behind, but it is not the heart of this book - merely the common thread that unites the three women.
The third is Iris James, the town's 40-year-old single postmaster who opens our story in the gynecologist's office getting a certificate of virginity because she's fallen in love and figures every man would appreciate knowing what they were getting. She's a no-nonsense gal whose true role in this story begins when she makes the uncharacteristically irrational decision to not deliver a letter.
I enjoyed very much the way these three stories danced around each other, touching lightly and spinning away, finally nestling together at the end in a little knot of hope amidst pain - and pain amidst hope. The characters felt real and likely to me - like real women who might have lived these lives in a time period so often painted with the saturated Hollywood colors of "history." All three of them are so strong in ways that real women are strong, and break in ways that real women break. Even though the author admits to deviations from historical reality, this book has the sense of being a true story.
And, after all, as Neil Gaiman said: "Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten." ...more
This one had some hanging plot ends somewhat akin to series continuity errors, but MAN do I ever love these books. I wish I would never run out of theThis one had some hanging plot ends somewhat akin to series continuity errors, but MAN do I ever love these books. I wish I would never run out of them....more
Re-reading... I'd heard that this translation was the best, so I'm giving it a go before it's time to teach it. It's been an awfully long time, Mr. BeRe-reading... I'd heard that this translation was the best, so I'm giving it a go before it's time to teach it. It's been an awfully long time, Mr. Beowulf... LOVE the cover design....more
Liked it a lot - Priest's author voice is one that I could read all day, and I think it did a great job of making a zombie-infested, flying-in-the-facLiked it a lot - Priest's author voice is one that I could read all day, and I think it did a great job of making a zombie-infested, flying-in-the-face-of-actual-history Seattle seem completely believable. I didn't like this one as well as Dreadnought, mostly because there were a bushel more zombies, but it was still eminently enjoyable. LOVE Priest's female protagonists and supporting characters!...more
Dreadnought is, to a certain degree, a book about the Civil War. Mercy Lynch is a Confederate nurse working in a Virginia war hospital when she learnsDreadnought is, to a certain degree, a book about the Civil War. Mercy Lynch is a Confederate nurse working in a Virginia war hospital when she learns that her husband - who happens to have been a Union soldier - has died in a prison camp. Almost immediately after receiving this news, she receives a telegram from her long-estranged father; he's dying in Seattle and wants to see his little girl before he dies. Concluding that she has no real reason to stay put, Mercy heads west - a woman alone on a long journey across a wartorn land.
Except, as it turns out, the Civil War's been going on for over twenty years, with no real sign of stopping. Part of the problem is that the Union and Confederacy are engaged in an arms race, fueled in no small part by Texas and its diesel resources. Both sides have developed "walkers" (think Avatar or Return of the Jedi) and use dirigibles for air travel. Moreover, the Union has the Dreadnought - a terrifying locomotive such as has never been seen before (except perhaps in the classic slapstick western-steampunk movie venture, Wild Wild West). In her efforts to get to Washington as rapidly as possible, Mercy finds herself a passenger on the Dreadnought as it makes a mysterious trip west with a very peculiar cargo.
Oh, and it turns out that there are zombies.
The thing about Dreadnought is that it's really very good. Mercy's character rings true, sympathetic, and appropriate both to historic sensibilities and to the quasi kickass-in-corsets ideal of steampunk. Many books in this subgenre go overboard with trying to replicate a Victorian style in their writing, but Dreadnought leans more toward the straightforward Western style and benefits from it. That plainspoken prose adds considerable versimilitude to a story that might otherwise collapse under the weight of its ridiculousness; up until the last fifty pages or so, a reader could easily forget that they weren't reading a historically accurate tale.
Consequently, I think this book could appeal to readers even if they weren't a fan of fantastical fiction; you don't have to love steampunk or alternative history to get wrapped up in Mercy's story. Although Priest's wild West is, apparently, infested with zombies, this isn't a "zombie book" (which is good, because I am not interested in zombie books) and you can read it without too much fear of being grossed out or horrified by the undead. I mean, they're there, but only really in the last fifty pages, and it's not too graphic. It's also interesting and well-written enough to, in my opinion, bridge the genre gulf for people who might not be terribly interested in Civil War-era America. This book is many things, all of which are satisfying. The only thing that I felt was absent - and I'm not at all sure that the story needed it - was a little bit of romantic interest. Priest kept hinting at the possibility of chemistry, but Mercy never takes the bait. I also kept expecting a dramatic development about another female traveler on the Dreadnought, but if that development is coming, it must be coming in another book.
Two more things I liked about this book: Although it is the third in a series, it works as a standalone novel (obviously, since I got halfway through the book before realizing that it was in a series at all). And it's printed in brown ink on creamy paper. How cool is that?
Overall, as long as the zombies don't take too much of a central role, I'm excited to read more of the books in this series and would recommend Dreadnought in particular to anyone who likes Civil War fiction, steampunk, adventure, interesting female protagonists, or good literary diversions.
A fun YA adventure that I wish had been around when I was younger, because I would have LOVED this. And what's not to love? Airships! Adventure! PiratA fun YA adventure that I wish had been around when I was younger, because I would have LOVED this. And what's not to love? Airships! Adventure! Pirates! Shipwrecks! Discoveries of mysterious catlike flying creatures! Young almost-romance! Cabin boys with near supernatural abilities to pilot enormous ships with no formal training! Headstrong female leads named Kate! This is some good stuff. :)
Now, I'm not entirely certain that I'd be so quick to classify this as "steampunk," as many readers have been wont to do, nor am I certain that it was Printz material. But it was definitely a good romp, and one that I'd happily put into the hands of any young reader who loves swashbuckling adventures....more
An entertaining and charming reboot of the "Jack and the Beanstalk"/"Jack the Giant Killer" fairy tale, set as an urban fantasy in a Canadian town wheAn entertaining and charming reboot of the "Jack and the Beanstalk"/"Jack the Giant Killer" fairy tale, set as an urban fantasy in a Canadian town where the Wild Hunt rides Harley Davidsons instead of fiery steeds of the equine variety. Ultimately, I felt like the book was a little rushed - an outline for a richer novel, perhaps - and consequently fell a little flat. This book could have been expanded to a full urban fantasy epic and left this reader much more satisfied; this slender YA-appropriate venture didn't quite sate my appetite. A nice little amuse-bouche for fans of fairy tales, urban fantasy, Charles de Lint, or - I maintain - Emma Bull....more