Sarah Blake has written an amazing book. Set in 1940-41, The Postmistress is the tale of three women whose lives overlap in tragic ways. The postmistress of the title is Iris James, who runs the post office in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod. Emma Fitch is newly arrived in Franklin, the bride of the town physician, Will Fitch. Frankie Bard is a radio reporter for CBS, based in London with Edward R. Murrow.
Iris James is consumed with keeping the machinery of civilization running smoothly; hence her devotion to the mail. She is precise, methodical and conscientious. She falls in love with Harry Vale, the town mechanic who now spends his days searching the sea for German U-boats.
In London, Bard reports daily on the stories of the people affected by the German blitzkrieg: the policeman on the corner there one day, then gone; the little boy looking for his mother; the grocer who jokes that the sheep will never grow to be mutton.
Emma Fitch was orphaned by the influenza epidemic of 1918. When Will loses a patient in childbirth, he is devastated. As self-imposed penance, he takes off for London to help the beleaguered hospitals and physicians treating the many injured. Emma is lonely and bereft when Will leaves.
The residents of Franklin are mesmerized by Frankie’s broadcasts. Frankie, however, knows that there is another story to tell. And that is the story of the displaced people of Europe, mostly Jewish. She wants to tell their stories so that Americans will pay attention to what is going on and do something.
The Postmistress tells a compelling and important story. The characters are well-drawn, and are interesting and sympathetic. Blake does a great job of weaving all these stories together. I highly recommend this book.
Published in hardcover-G.P. Putnam’s Sons-2010
Softcover edition-Berkley Trade-2011