Julie's Reviews > The Postmistress

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
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's review
Jun 25, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, from-library, historical-fiction, ebook
Read from August 26 to 30, 2010

The Postmistress is set in a really tense, tragic, fascinating time period - the early days of WWII, before the US even got involved. And despite our not being technically at war yet, it's all told from the perspective of American characters. Interesting movie.

The book is written in a similar manner to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, switching back and forth between the viewpoints of three women whose stories intertwine. This lets the reader get multiple perspectives on some of the same events.

Unfortunately, the development of the story didn't seem to flow smoothly to me. The first third or so focuses more on Iris and Emma, and then Frankie Bard enters the picture and becomes the book's primary focus. It seemed like not much happened in parts, but then at the end everything was dragged out for much longer than necessary. The author created a milieu of tension and frustration and despair, so I guess she hit her mark.

I liked Frankie's perspective most of all, and thought that the author was able to say a lot of important things about the nature of war through her, like how war is such a mix of the large events and the small details of human existence that are disrupted, stirred up, and changed forever by those events. Frankie (and Blake) focus mostly on these smaller details, as Frankie tries hard to use them to catch the attention of the greater world and affect the flow of American opinion about the war in Europe, as much as possible. It calls to mind the situation of war correspondents in all periods of history, including today, and how the public is only seeing what these reporters are able and allowed to show us: we're not really getting the whole story, are we?

Something I especially appreciated: the characters seem pretty solidly centered in the worldviews and experiences of the time. This made me glad because it drives me crazy when an author gives their character (usually the protagonist) some viewpoint that we accept as fact now, but that wasn't the prevailing view at the time. For example, I was actually (oddly) glad to notice that just about everyone in the whole book smoked, including pregnant women. Yeah, we know that's bad now, but at the time it would have been de rigeur and no one would have batted an eye. Some authors wouldn't have been able to resist having at least one character comment on how awful smoking is, or how smoking during pregnancy is wrong, etc. and I'm glad Sarah Blake didn't do so.

As for the actual content, well, some of it I saw coming, and some I didn't. Some characters I liked, and some I didn't. The title is a little misleading because it makes it sound like it will focus more on Iris, but I suppose that Frankie is really the "postmistress" as she decides whether to deliver the letter in her keeping. (Anyone have a comment on this? Am I seeing things that aren't there?) And the very end... well... just why? I don't see the point. (I'm trying not to be spoilery here.)

I'm glad I read it, and it was well-written with some important points to make about war and the human experience.

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08/27/2010 page 108
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