Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress Those who carry the truth sometimes bear a terrible weight . . .
It is 1940 and half the world is living through the horror of the Second World War, but America still believes it is safe from the bloodshed.
In Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James is the postmistress and she firmly believes that her job is to keep and deliver people’s secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. But one day she does the unthinkable: she doesn’t deliver a letter and instead slips it into her pocket.
Every night Iris and Emma Fitch, the young doctor’s wife, tune in to Frankie Bard’s radio dispatches, anguished bulletins sent from the air-raid shelters and Underground stations of London during the Blitz.
One night in a bomb shelter, Frankie meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver.
In the last desperate days of the summer of 1941 Frankie leaves a traumatised London, rides the trains out of Germany and records the stories of refugees desperately trying to escape. The townspeople of Franklin listen and the war seems a life-time away, but Iris and Emma, unable to tear themselves away from Frankie’s voice, know better.
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.” –

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake tells the stories of three American women: Iris James, Emma Fitch, and Frankie Bard. Iris James is the relatively new postmaster in Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod. Emma Fitch has just moved to Franklin as well, as the new bride of Dr. Will Fitch. Frankie Bard is a New York native working as a radio reporter in London during the Blitz of World War II. Iris and Emma listen to her nightly on their radios. Will, Emma’s husband, winds up traveling to London to volunteer his medical services to those injured during the bombings. His path eventually crosses with Frankie’s and she finds herself bearing a message she must deliver, one way or another, to Emma Fitch all the way back in Franklin.

Meanwhile, Frankie is seeing the injustices of war largely ignored by society, particularly by America, who has yet to enter the war. She is desperate to share these images with America via her reports across the airwaves, but is told over and over by her superiors that “no one wants to hear about it”. Frankie ultimately winds up on a train tour through Berlin and France, recording the words of refugees in an attempt to make a record of the travesty of their plight. Traumatized by her experiences, Frankie flees Europe and London and returns to New York.

Back in Franklin, Iris and Emma are surprised when the town receives a visit from the famous Frankie Bard. Whatever could she be doing in their little neck of the woods? Little do they know that she has come to deliver something very special – along with devastating news. But what Frankie doesn’t know is that her visit to Franklin will instill her with hope for the future once again, and that finally the voices she recorded not so long ago will be heard by those who need to hear them the most.

I found The Postmistress by Sarah Blake to be an enjoyable read, if somewhat dry. Life in Franklin moved very slowly, and there didn’t seem to be much purpose there. Frankie Bard’s role, particularly in London and Europe, was particularly powerful, however. I think the most powerful question asked in this book was, when does one speak up? When does one take action? For if we do not do this, who will? And when it comes to injustice and malfeasance, if we do not do this, who will stop “them” if not for us? I am reminded of the quote by Martin Niemoller:

…Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

4 stars, my friend

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

3 thoughts on “Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

  1. Mira says:

    I enjoyed the writing in this book more than the story, although there were bits, with Frankie’s recordings and a few things happening in that small town, that were powerful.

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