“Every story–love or war–is a story about looking left when we should have been looking right.” (p.3)
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake was published in 2010, and is 318 pages. It’s the story of how the lives that populate a small, New England town are linked to American radio personality, Frankie Bard, as she reports from London during the blitz of 1940, just before America got involved in WWII.
In Cape Cod, Iris James, the town postmaster, listens to Ms. Bard with skepticism. The war in Europe seems quite far from where she stands, sorting mail for her town and developing a relationship with Harry Vale, a WWI vet and the town mechanic who’s obsessed with watching for German U-Boats on the coast. Also listening to Frankie are the young town doctor, Will Fitch, and his wife Emma. When a terrible circumstance convinces Will that he must travel to London to help in a hospital, Emma is left alone to wait and worry.
As Frankie travels through a war-ravaged countryside determined to bring the story to American living rooms, the trauma she witnesses drives her on a journey she never expected and forces her to question whether or not telling the truth is always the right thing to do.
I read this book while on vacation, so I was able to read it in just a few days. I found myself thinking about it long after I finished it, and wished I had others with whom I could discuss it. It would make a great book club selection.
The Postmistress was incredibly moving and impossible to put down. As Sarah Blake noted in her afterword, she aimed to tell “the story that lies around the edges of the photographs.” I’ve read many books about WWII, but this book, the prologue to the American involvement in the war, was every bit as profound as those set during the height of the action. I have to hold back on my synopsis so I don’t reveal any of the book’s secrets, but I give it my highest recommendation.