Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Postmistress - Loved it!
I finished The Postmistress by Sarah Blake several weeks ago and I've had the beautiful book on my desk to remind me to tell you all about it.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide. 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.
If a blurb from Kathryn Stockett graces the cover of a book, (and a gorgeous cover, at that!) there’s pretty much no chance it won’t live up to her praise. The Postmistress more than delivers. I first learned of the book when Pamela interviewed publisher Amy Einhorn.
I picked up the book in my local bookstore, the late Legacy Books, while on a field trip with some of my fellow WWW women. I’m a huge fan of stories that weave multiple narratives, whether in different time periods or locations, so the description of this one caught my attention.
With spot-on historical details, the story’s charm originates with its characters. Frankie is a tough woman with heart, wanting only to bring the hard truths of the war home to America. She records first-hand accounts from Jewish refugees and finds herself in the middle of a fateful train ride. Iris values rules and order, and above all views her role as an uninformed messenger of secrets. Both women are faced with difficult decisions, forcing them to go against everything they believe. The dialogue is snappy, the plot twists unexpected, and the prose efficient and honest.
Here are a few of my favorite passages:
“One could stand on a corner and see a long row of untouched houses, their white fronts perfectly sharp against the autumn sky—all England in a block—then turn the next corner to find nothing but flat waste and fire, the exhausted faces of the women carrying cheap cardboard suitcases and handing their children up into the refugee buses waiting at the square. Each night of the Blitz, the war passed over London like the Old Testament angel, block by block: touching here, turning from there, and Frankie followed, wanting to get it down, wanting to get at the heart of it.” p. 29
“This is how a war knocks down the regular, steady life we set up against the wolf at the door. Because the wolf is not hunger, it is accident—the horrid, fatal mistake of turning left to go to the nearer tube station, rather than right to take the long way around. There is the sense one gets walking around London at night, of a God grown sleepy, tired of holding the whole vast world in His gaze, tired of making sense—so that shards of glass dagger babies in their beds, boys come home to empty houses, and the woman and the man who had just lain down to sleep are crushed.” p. 67
If you’ve read this one, let me know if you loved it as much as I did. If you haven’t, head to the bookstore!