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The Postmistress [Hardcover]

Sarah Blake
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 9 2010
Those who carry the truth sometimes bear a terrible burden...

Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women-and of two countries torn apart by war.

On the eve of the United States's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter.

In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.

The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen.

The Postmistress is an unforgettable tale of the secrets we must bear, or bury. It is about what happens to love during war­time, when those we cherish leave. And how every story-of love or war-is about looking left when we should have been looking right.

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"Some novels we savor for their lapidary prose, others for their flesh and blood characters, and still others for a sweeping narrative arc that leaves us light- headed and changed; Sarah Blake's masterful, The Postmistress, serves us all this and more. Compassionate, insightful, and unsentimental, this masterful novel is told in a rare and highly successful omniscient voice, one that delves deeply into the seemingly random nature of love and war and story itself. This is a superb book!"
-Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog

"The Postmistress is the fictional communique readers have waited for. Sarah Blake has brought small-town American life and ravaged Europe during WWII to us with cinematic immediacy. The romantic, harrowing -- and utterly inimitable-- story of radio journalist Frankie Bard (appalled yet intoxicated by tragedy as no character I've ever read before) contains the uncompromised sensibility found in the writings of Martha Gellhorn. The Postmistress belongs in what Gellhorn called "the permanent and necessary" library."
-Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and Devotion

"Great books give you a feeling that you miss all day until you finally get to crawl back inside those pages again. The Postmistress is one of those rare books. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. Sarah Blake seamlessly moves from inside one character to another, in a novel that reminds us of a time when the news travelled from post to paper to radio and that is how we learned about the world. The Postmistress made me homesick for a time before I was even born. What's remarkable, however, is how relevant the story is to our present-day times. A beautifully written, thought provoking novel that I'm telling everyone I know to read."
-Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

"An unforgettable, insightful, and compelling novel The Postmistress engages the reader's instincts at the deep level of fight or flight. For WWII radio reporter Frankie Bard, however, the gut response to horror is see and tell. Sarah Blake's prose perfectly recreates the cadences of passion and of the inner life while also conjuring up the wrenching, nightmare suspense of history in the making."
-Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette

"To open Blake's novel of World War II and the convergence of three strong women is to enter a slipstream, so powerful are its velocity, characters, and drama. How can you resist Frankie Bard, an American journalist of gumption and vision who is bravely reporting on the Blitz from London? Her distinctive voice and audacious candor are heard on radios everywhere on the home front, including Cape Cod, where Iris James, in love for the first time at 40, keeps things shipshape at a small-town post office. The third in Blake's triumvirate of impressive women, Emma, the waiflike wife of the town's doctor, is not as obvious a candidate for heroism until a tragedy induces her husband to join the war effort. As Frankie risks her life to record the stories of imperiled Jews, Iris and Emma struggle to maintain order as America goes reluctantly to war. Blake raises unsettling questions about the randomness of violence and death, and the simultaneity of experience--how can people frolic on a beach while others are being murdered? 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."
-Donna Seaman, ALA Booklist, Starred review

"Even readers who don't think they like historical novels will love this one and talk it up to their friends. Highly recommended for all fans of beautifully wrought fiction."
-Library Journal, Starred Review

About the Author

Sarah Blake lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, the poet Josh Weiner, and their two sons.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read... May 4 2010
Books about life on the American home front during WW2 (or in this case in the two years preceding it) often center on war production, rationing, government service, and other specific subjects. Susan Blake's novel concerns more the feelings and thoughts of those left behind. There are three women at the heart of Blake's story. One is the young (and new) wife of a doctor who feels drawn to serve in London during the blitz. He leaves her behind in their Cape Cod home as he goes off to war. Also in the small village is the postmistress, who is in charge of the in-coming and out-going mail. Both women, like most of the other residents listen to radio reports from London by such broadcasters as Edward R Murrow and members of his team. One of Murrow's collegues is an American woman named Frankie, who broadcasts about everyday life in London during the Blitz as well as special reports on the atrocities being committed in countries under German occupation. It is Frankie's broadcasts which have inspired the young doctor to volunteer in London. Frankie and the doctor eventually meet in London - in a bomb shelter - and the repercussions of that meeting reverberate back to the quiet Cape Cod community.

There's not a lot of action in Blake's book, other than normal wartime goings-on. The real "action" is that what goes on between the three women who are finally united in the Cape Cod town. It's a sad, yet hopeful story. I'm sure WW2 produced many such stories, and many such heroines.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and War March 23 2010
Sarah Blake writes a heart-wrenching story of love and war in America and Europe during WWII. Life was very different between these two continents and Ms. Blake shows us this with clarity and passion.

I really liked "The Postmistress". I like the characters and the plot development. The opening pages are an interest grabber making the reader want to immerse themselves into the mystery. That is where the story falls short. There is no mystery. I was expecting bags of mail being "misplaced" but this was not the case. In the end, would those missing letters have really made a difference in the life of the intended recipient if she had received them? Those letters were more of an anchor than a main theme and I found them to be irrelevant and weak. However, there was an element of suspense and over all I really enjoyed "The Postmistress".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not about news or war Feb. 20 2012
(...)The Postmistress grows on you. At the very beginning, you think: 'Great, another WWII, how many of those out there!' and it does not even seem enticing. But then every little action, every face, and every bit of dialogue you discover as not being stupid and that is already a big plus. Also, I kept having the impression that Sarah was reading my mind or at least following me around, for blatant general truths I for sure think, but almost never have the courage to blurt out, kept popping up right when they were happening, and once I even looked behind, it was downright spooky!
Some opinions out there blame the lack of reliability as well as 'juicy' details when it comes to the war. I would not label it as a war book, it is not. It's about characters facing it and having their take on it; more specifically, it's about Americans seeing the beginning of the WWII in Europe and then USA. It's the right or wrong; the idea that we''re all together and everything affects everything, life''s a treacherous play that one cannot build a script for.
Many keep pounding 'the news' notion how it's all about news, how one receives the news, blah blah blah or bull, I say. One knows. One can feel it in his bones. There is no news, yes, there is a reporter broadcasting, yes there is censorship, yes she carries a letter all over the world, but all that feels like a side plot to me, it's the context for the real plot to happen: love, strong, pure, one of a kind, the kind that makes you feel guilty for having it and terrified at the thought of losing. (...)
To see the rest of this review, as well as many more interesting unabridged ones go to
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointed... April 3 2011
By spudwil
Sorry, I didn't like this book and had to force myself to finish it. I found it poorly written with poor character development. Too bad because it was an interesting idea and if it was written by a different author it may have been readable. For an excellent book about what it's really like to live through a war, try Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. You can actually feel the war around you as you read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start but interesting ending May 30 2014
By lin01
The author thought a lot and did a lot of research before writing this book. I loved the idea behind it, however I found the beginning very slow and found it hard to connect with the characters. I nearly abandoned reading but persevered and found the second half so much more interesting. By the end I was hooked. The book made me think a lot about the war and how it affected different people. But it also made me think about how we react to conflict, the reported news, and the story behind the reported it started, how it ends and all of the in between parts...the parts of the story we never hear. So I suppose that the author achieved her goal with me. It made me think. If I recommend this book to anyone, I would warn them that the first half is not an easy read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars a very good read
I read this book because it is our Book Club choice for this month. And while I sometimes found it a little heavy going, and wasn't sure of thought process, it kept me interested... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Joanne Klumper
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories of my childhood
It is not often that I find a book other than my usual genre which is crime, police,etc, that I cannot put down. But this one I just couldn't stop reading. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ida L. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars The Postmistress
I really loved it. I think the author did great reseach and had so much insight to the traumma and then historical time of l940s. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Nili Gayer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
The title caught my eye - I read some of the 299 reviews: the favourable and the critical. The fact that the story was taking place during the Second World War and that 3 women... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Monique S. Hunton
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but falls far short of the hype
I really didn't like this book. I had heard so many people say how good it was and I got talked into buying it in the bookshop. What a let down. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2012 by caseygirl
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Loved this of my favourite reads this summer...particularly refreshing after reading the Post Birthday World - dreadful book.

This was excellent. Read more
Published on July 18 2011 by Wine Lover
1.0 out of 5 stars I disliked this book
I was very disappointed in this book. The plot sounded wonderful. A postmistress in a little Cape Cod village holds back a letter during the Second World War - what can that be all... Read more
Published on July 10 2011 by Syd Lewis
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
The subject matter - a postmistress withholding mail in an era when it was the sole form of communication - is promising, yet dealt with in an anti-climactic manner. Read more
Published on April 28 2011 by Bean
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