Wednesday, February 2, 2011

THE POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake


In the small town of Franklin, Massachusetts, in 1941, the postmaster is actually a postmistress who takes her job very seriously. However, Iris James chooses not to delivery one piece of mail, in the interest of not breaking the heart of young Emma, whose husband is caring for patients injured in the Blitz in London. The third woman in this story is the appropriately name Frankie Bard, a reporter broadcasting from London. When her boss, Edward R. Murrow, puts her on a train to Berlin to record conversations with evacuees, she jumps at the chance, with no inkling of the peril and tragedy that await her. Both Iris and Frankie have the task of disseminating information, and both balk at the obligation to deliver heartbreaking news. I didn't like the fact that the reader was aware from the start that such news would be withheld and that the consequences would be withheld from the reader until the end. Plus, the ending did not justify the buildup and was something of a letdown with very little closure. I was actually concerned that this novel might be too weepy, but I never became sufficiently attached to the main characters to have that kind of response, especially since Emma's grief is dragged out for almost the entire length of the book. Frankie's refugee stories are mostly the barest of snippets, except for the one in which she becomes a major player in the outcome. The most moving was, to me, that of a mother sending her small son out of Germany on his own. When he and Frankie part ways, we know that he is truly alone.

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