Often as I read a book it resonates with me in an uncanny fashion. As I was reading The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, a NY Times bestselling novel that focuses on the importance of letters, my daughter and I were anxiously waiting to hear from the last of the colleges she'd applied to. Would there be a small envelope, a rejection letter, or a large envelope, an acceptance packet, in the mail for her? On Saturday afternoon I heard our mail carrier pull up to our mailbox. A few minutes later, I dashed outside to check the mail.
The Postmistress is a story that revolves around three woman, two in Franklin, MA (a fictitious town), Emma Fitch, the doctor's wife, and Iris James, the postmistress, and Frankie Bard, a female radio journalist stationed in London during World War II. While there are male characters in the story as well--Dr. Will Fitch, Jim Tom, and Harry Vale, to name a few--this novel, published in 2010, centers on the lives of these three women. Each had a different career in 1940, a time when roles were just starting to change for American women. Emma, young and tiny, adopted the most traditional role of the three, as the doctor's wife (and mother-to-be). The other women were responsible for communication in two distinct ways, highlighting the power of written and spoken words. Iris, red-haired and tall, was the careful, orderly postmistress of Franklin, and Frankie Bard was a striking pioneer as a radio announcer at a time when women were scoffed at because they didn't "belong" on the radio with their "high voices". All three of the women are connected because of the war.
From a feminist's point of view, I appreciate that these women are portrayed as strong and capable. We take it for granted today that American women can choose any career they wish for, but the book reminds us that this was not always the case, and that it wasn't easy to be taken seriously. In the book, though, even Emma, who was a housewife and looked as if she needed protection, was stronger than she appeared, and she wasn't portrayed as less important than the other two women merely because of her traditional role.
The Postmistress is richly detailed and beautifully written and brought certain aspects of World War II to life for me. I felt as if I, too, were running and hiding from bombs in London, or riding the crowded, dank trains described in the book--the only possible way to escape from the war for many people. It's not that I want to relive the war, or the persecution of the Jews, but the presentation of events in this book, which includes Frankie's on-the-spot recorded interviews with refugees, is a brilliant way to present the human side of this devastating war. I enjoyed the bits of romance throughout the story, although the war destroyed the relationships in various ways. The Postmistress kept me spellbound, and I wanted to linger on nearly every page of this novel.
But back to my own story, about Saturday's mail. Our mailbox had a large envelope in it, which I excitedly presented to my daughter.
More terrific news! The publisher, Berkley Trade, is generously offering a newly released paperback copy of the book as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).
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Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, April 11. One winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 12. Good luck!
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book. For more reviews please visit the other stops on TLC's The Postmistress book tour.