It seems as if every book I pick up lately has something to do with World War II. That certainly isn’t Sarah Blake’s problem, it is just a personal problem, I guess. Our book club just finished The Invisible Bridge, a wonderful story which takes place in Hungary and Paris during World War II. When I started reading the book, I knew exactly what I was getting into and I must say that it was a wonderful story and definitely worth reading.
Next I chose The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and I have to admit that I had no idea what it was about. The only thing I knew was that everyone loved this book and it was written as a series of letters. Again World War II! This one I read audio style and it was a fascinating story and the audio book was done beautifully.
So, what book did I pick up next? The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. My daughter lent me the book after she had read it and it was on my “to read” list. I read so many book blogs and reviews and somewhere along the line I must have read a review and added it to the list of books I wanted to read. Little did I realize, it too was a World War II book. I probably would not have read it just now had I known as I have had my fill of books that take place in the 1940’s, but, once I started it there was no question that I would finish.
The Postmistress is about two women, Iris a Postmistress, or Postmaster as she preferred to be called in Franklin, Massachusetts and Frankie and a war correspondent, working in London in the early years of World War II. Both of these women are responsible for delivering news in very different ways. The synopsis on the back of the book sounded fascinating. What if the Postmistress in a small town, whose job it is to sort and deliver every letter decides not to deliver a particular letter and to pocket it instead. I kept waiting for this to happen and eventually it did, however it did not have the impact you would expect it to have.
The Postmistress, alternates back and forth between Franklin, Massachusetts and war-torn Europe. Iris takes her job as Postmaster seriously, arriving at the post office each morning and making sure that everything is done just right, including raising the flag out front. Will Fitch, the town doctor had just married and brought his new wife Emma to town, and Harry Vale, convinced that the German’s will be arriving any day watches patiently for U-boats. The residents of Franklin listen to Frankie’s reports and to them she is somewhat of a celebrity.
Back in London, Frankie is doing her best to let people know what is really happening, frustrated by the fact that no one seems to be listening or doing anything about it.
“Listen”, Frankie snapped. “Whatever is coming does not just come, as you say. It’s helped by people willfully looking away. People who develop the habit of swallowing lies rather than the truth. The minute you start thinking something else, then you’ve stopped paying attention- and paying attention is all we’ve got.”
Yes, The Postmistress is another World War II story, but Sarah Blake has managed to tell it from yet another perspective. This story is told through the voice of Frankie as she delivers her radio program as well as through the voices of the Jews on the trains trying to escape to safety, whom she interviews and records. It is told by the way the ordinary people of Franklin, Massachusetts lives are changed forever. I am sure that this will not be the last World War II book I read, but I think I might just take a break!