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The Postmistress | [Sarah Blake]

The Postmistress

Alternating between an America still cocooned in its inability to grasp the danger at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news, and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it. Sarah Blake's The Postmistress shows how we bear the fact that war goes on around us while ordinary lives continue. Filled with stunning parallels to today, it is a remarkable novel.
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Publisher's Summary

It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won't send our boys to fight in "foreign wars."

But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie's radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention--as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight.

Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie's broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin's shores. In charge of the town's mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.

Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town's doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape a fragile childhood and forge a brighter future. When Will follows Frankie's siren call into the war, Emma's worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.

Alternating between an America still cocooned in its inability to grasp the danger at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news, and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it.

Sarah Blake's The Postmistress shows how we bear the ...

©2010 Sarah Blake; (P)2010 Penguin

What the Critics Say

“Blake captures two different worlds—a naïve nation in denial and, across the ocean, a continent wracked with terror—with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions, such as the merits of truth and truth-telling in wartime.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Matching harrowing action with reflection, romance with pathos, Blake’s emotional saga of conscience and genocide is poised to become a best-seller of the highest echelon.” (Booklist, starred review)

“a moving page-turner from a talented writer.” (Bookmarks Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (519 )
5 star
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3.7 (190 )
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Story
3.9 (192 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Babs Ottawa, ON, Canada 02-16-10
    Babs Ottawa, ON, Canada 02-16-10 Member Since 2004

    the Gadget Queen

    HELPFUL VOTES
    209
    ratings
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    23
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    5
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    Overall
    "Reasonably enjoyable, but too full of stereotypes"

    I had read so many reviews of this book, all comparing it to The Help. Don't believe the hype! It's a relatively enjoyable listen, and deals with an interesting time in US and world history -- before the US entered the war, and as the world was just learning about the fate of Europe's Jews. But the characters are just too stereotyped: the plucky girl reporter, drinking whiskey with the boys and having anonymous sex during London's blackouts; the middle-aged, no-nonsense postmistress experiencing romance for the first time (and getting a certificate of virginity from her puzzled doctor -- ick!); and the timid wife whose doctor husband runs away from a medical mistake by deciding to tend to victims of war in London. The young wife character is never developed -- maybe we could forgive her timidity and vapidity if we had been given any sense of why we are supposed to care about her or what strengths she has besides being a little doll her husband can protect. The scenes of the "radio gal" doing her reports from London are quite interesting, and her encounters with doomed Jews in France and Germany are chilling. But we don't end up caring that much about the characters, and there's nothing surprising or compelling in their fates. And so many loose ends are never tied up. The narrator is terrible at accents -- her British accent and her New England accent often sound the same, and her French pronunciation is appalling -- and she often pronounces Edward R. Murrow's name as "Mur-ROW." This book was a decent diversion but more frustrating than rewarding.

    74 of 76 people found this review helpful
  •  
    theenglishmajor NJ 06-09-10
    theenglishmajor NJ 06-09-10 Member Since 2001

    theenglishmajor

    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
    ratings
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    82
    11
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    Overall
    "Disappointing"

    First I will admit that I didn't have really high hopes for this novel but was looking for something less serious to read. The premise seemed interesting. I found the novel to be very short on character development. So much so, that I failed to form an attachment to even one of the characters. I felt as though I were listening to the abridged version. No excitement. No surprises. I also expected a more thorough wrap-up. Plus let me say that I was shocked that the reader failed to know how to pronounce Edward R. Murrow's name. Seriously? and Messerschmidtt? How could that be possible?

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 02-22-10
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 02-22-10 Member Since 2003

    glam

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4427
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    310
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    0
    Overall
    "Heart-stopping"

    The is quite a different scene altogether from "The Help". While "The Help" is as serene and bucolic as its location in time and place (though not in attitudes and events), "The Postmistress" is as lurching, violent, and dislocating as its own particular theater in history.

    As a baby boomer, born just after WW II ended, I have always been curious as to how the war affected the millions of regular folks, as well as the journalists who courageously brought the war events to those my parents' age, older and younger, back here in the States. While there is an author's note as to the recording technology that was not actually available until after the period of time traversed by "The Postmistress", this did not in any way affect the nuance and depth of the story.

    The ambiance of Cape Cod plays a major role in the novel as well, and functions as another character. As a summer resident of one of the nearby islands where there was constructed an an entire Army base during WW II, I could well relate to one of the characters who patiently stands guard atop a town hall in order to spot the rogue U-boat.

    I would caution the reader - this is not light reading, and perhaps because I am in the arts I have a highly developed imagination and thus felt all the pain, abandonment, violence that is a feature of any war venue. There is an undertow of sadness throughout the book that is not for the feint of heart.

    The use of the mail system as metaphor for communication in general, and the nomenclature that changes from "Postmaster" to "Postmistress", is a brilliant device, and without spoiling, there are several characters who qualify for the position, charged with delivering difficult messages.

    Beautifully written, this novel gets 5 stars on any scale.

    24 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol 03-04-10
    Carol 03-04-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
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    15
    7
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    Overall
    "Wordy and overdone"

    I love historical novels, and am particularly interested in the WWII era, so I really wanted to like this book. I listened for about 4 hours, and just couldn't bring myself to finish it. The author has an very wordy writing style that makes it seem as if she attended too many creative writing classes. The characters seem overly "dark," and, as another reviewer noted, fall into typical stereotypes. It's almost as if the author tried to make the book more edgy and violent than necessary, (dark plots with a lot of emotional angst are "artsy," after all) which detracts significantly from what could have been an excellent plot. I found the overall "atmosphere" of the book to be overdone . The narration is not great either. A big disappointment.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    laurie Pittsfield, MA, United States 01-24-11
    laurie Pittsfield, MA, United States 01-24-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    2
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    Overall
    "Too Long, Too Flat"

    There were some good moments in the book but overall the story was made tedious by elaborate and painfully repetitive descriptions that went on and on, making up perhaps for lack of action. The characters were a little flat and unremarkable. This book was compared to The Help, but if the Help is a study in character development, then this book is a study in lack of development. I can guarantee in a couple of months I will remember nothing about this book or it's characters. What really got to me about this audio book, more than the story, is the narrator. Every time she reads dialogue in, be it male or female, it sounds as if she is doing a comedic impression of an elderly Katherine Hepburn. It drove me up the wall. I'd rather her just read them in a flat tone than try to do what she must feel is a Massachusetts accent.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carynification Florida 06-15-10
    carynification Florida 06-15-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    61
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    78
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    Overall
    "A Beautiful Yawn"

    It was definitely beautifully written, but beautiful doesn't cure boring. It was like that girl you look at with some nice features, but when they are all put together she falls just shy of being pretty, like Celine Dion. One of the main characters, Frankie, is just plain whiny and annoying. Iris has her phreak on with her Cerificate of Virginity (I still never understood what that was supposed to be all about), and it was just life, senseless and random. I dunno, but I just don't see life like that. I liked the question it raised about what happens at the edges of "the stories" we hear about daily, but when the edges are revealed here, they make you just want to stick your head in an oven they are so depressing.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet United States 04-07-10
    Janet United States 04-07-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    15
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    "I beg to differ!"

    I loved this book. I found the women at its heart amazing, and the story one that needs to be told and heard. Contrary to other reviewers, I thought the blend of characters worked well, voices across space and time sharing their lives in ways they might never know, in a time of intense turmoil and all too little knowing. It is not a simple or easy book; it asks you to consider tough questions of fate or chance or faith. I was enthralled.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shereika louisville, KY, United States 02-22-10
    Shereika louisville, KY, United States 02-22-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    "DONT DO IT!"

    I read both reviews and went ahead and purchased this book. It is NOT the help. I have attempted to read this book and was quickly confused by the characters metamorphosing into the other. I could not tell who was who until the names were used. I just did not get it. I adored the Help and was bored by the Postmistress. I have no idea if it gets better-I just could not get through the first 3 chapters- ( I had no idea when the chapters change). If I could get a refund-I would ask for double!

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Henle Davis, CA 06-01-10
    R. Henle Davis, CA 06-01-10 Member Since 2004

    I am Granny.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "Surprisingly thought-provoking"

    This book has had some not so stellar reviews due to the rather flat, blunt reading style of the first half or so of the book. But because the protagonist of this story is a World War II radio reporter, the reader's style is very much aligned with the radio reporting style of that time in our history. I thought it was very fitting to the story. The story itself turns into something quite incredible which was not expected, and from which I found a few meaningful life lessons having to do with the understanding that each individual has a story to tell. I found this to be a memorable and pure story. Listen to it all the way to the end--you won't regret it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Henderson, NC, USA 05-15-10
    Lisa Henderson, NC, USA 05-15-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    6
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Great!"

    I really enjoyed this book! It took a few chapters before I was totally pulled into the story, so don't give up! The reader was super! You will be glad you listened!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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