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The Postmistress [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Blake
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (439 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The New York Times bestseller- "A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel." -#1 New York
bestselling author Kathryn Stockett.

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal
Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to
deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners
to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can't touch them.
But both Iris and Frankie know better...

The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds-one shattered
by violence, the other willfully naïve-and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves
unable to do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history's tide, it examines how
stories are told, and how the fact of war is borne even through everyday life.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: Kathryn Stockett Interviews Sarah Blake

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. The Help is her first novel.Kathryn Stockett Here she talks with novelist Sarah Blake about her experiences writing The Postmistress.

Kathryn Stockett: I should start by saying that I am honored to be on the same page with you—I loved The Postmistress. The book is so complex, it gives you so much to think about and discuss. My first question to you is, how did the book come about? What made you start writing it?

Sarah Blake: Thanks so much, Kathryn—and I'd like to lob those kind words right back at you; it's a tremendous thrill for me to be in conversation with the author of The Help.

The Postmistress began with a picture that sprang into my head one day, of a woman sorting the mail in the back of a post office, quietly slipping a letter into her pocket instead of delivering it. Immediately, questions flooded forward: Whose letter was it? Why on earth would she choose to pocket it? What havoc would be wreaked by not delivering a letter? As I answered those questions, Emma and Will and their love story, and the workings of the small town in which Iris was the center, came to life. One hundred pages into that draft, Frankie Bard arrived on the bus, out of the blue. I had no idea who she was or why she was there, except that one character referred to her as a war correspondent without a war. That was interesting, I thought. By this time I had decided to set the novel in the late thirties, early forties. It was 2001 and I was living in Washington, D.C., after the attacks of 9/11, and I was very preoccupied with trying to make sense of what was happening around me. Were we in danger? Would we go to war? The parallels between that uncertain time and the time before the United States entered World War II resonated with me, and what was a novel about accident and fate and the overlapping of lives deepened into a novel with war as its backdrop, which asked questions about how we understand ourselves to be in a historical moment and what we do when we are called to it.

Kathryn Stockett: Your book features three different women. From a logistical standpoint, did you find it hard to pull off the different points of view? I know this is something I spend a lot of time on in my work—making sure the voices are distinct and also very much true to the different characters.

Sarah BlakeSarah Blake: To be honest, with this novel, the challenge was trying to keep each of these women in line, since each one threatened at some point or another to run away with the story! It took eight years for this story to become the novel you have in your hands, and in large part that's because with the introduction of each character, I found myself going off and following an individual story, traveling further and further from a workable plot. By the time I had finished, I had written three separate novels, one for each of the three women—complete with love affairs, whole families, other towns—and the challenge came not in trying to keep them distinct, but in trying to figure out how to weave their stories together.

Kathryn Stockett: Who is your favorite character, and why?

Sarah Blake: I'm not sure I can answer that, since there are parts of each of these women I admire, and parts of each of them I don't like. They are all broken in an essential way—a way I find incredibly interesting. When a reporter finds she cannot tell a story and a postmaster finds herself unable to pass along a letter, the moments they have arrived at as characters are compelling. Mrs. Cripps was certainly the most fun to write—she didn’t have to carry too much weight in the telling of the story, and she was such a nosy parker it was fun to write her lines.

Kathryn Stockett: Is there a character in The Postmistress with whom you identify most? (And if you have been having trysts with good-looking soldiers in dark alleyways, please share!)

Sarah Blake: Oh, there are bits of me in all three women: certainly Frankie's rage and sorrow, the desire to get the story (something I despaired of often in the eight years of writing); Iris's love of order; and Emma's feeling of invisibility, her longing for the sense that someone would watch over her.

Kathryn Stockett: The most haunting scenes for me—and there were many—were those of Frankie on the train with Thomas and of the mother and child on the train platform. How did these scenes come about? Were they difficult to write?

Sarah Blake: Much of the drive to write the book had to do with my own attempt to write my way toward understanding the sudden, final breaks that crack into our lives, in the form of accidents, death, other irrevocable events. I have two sons, and while it is impossible for me to imagine putting them on a train by themselves, with nothing but paper to send them to safety, it was easy to conjure feelings of despair and heartbreak. The book is full of mothers and sons being torn apart by childbirth, bombs, and visas; but the last parting—the mother embracing her boy in the train car with Frankie—was probably the most difficult to write. It's the hardest to comprehend, and yet it happened all the time, saying good-bye, knowingly, possibly forever.

Kathryn Stockett: What research did you do for historical accuracy? You seem to have really nailed the time period.

Sarah Blake: Thank you. I'm glad it feels credible. I read many books on the history of World War II, pored through Life magazines from 1939 to 1945 for a sense of how much things cost and what they looked like, read Federal Writers Project interviews with all types of people living on Cape Cod in the 1930s, watched movies made in 1940 and 1941 (my favorite is The Letter with Bette Davis) in order to get the rhythms of idiomatic speech. I also spent many hours at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and at the Radio & Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland.

(Photo of Kathryn Stockett © Kem Lee)

From Publishers Weekly

Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide. Blake captures two different worlds—a naïve nation in denial and, across the ocean, a continent wracked with terror—with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions, such as the merits of truth and truth-telling in wartime. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 436 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670918687
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (February 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0030CVRXY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,612 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
433 of 459 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In 1940, the lives of three women could not be more different as war rages in Europe. Iris James, postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts, believes in order and details. She takes great pride in her work. All communications in the town come through her. The whole system works because of the neat efficient system and the trust. She keeps all the secrets of the residents, but one day, she breaks with everything she has ever believed, slipping a letter into her pocket. Emma Trask, wife of the town's doctor Will Fitch, listens to all the radio broadcasts from London with her husband. When a tragedy provokes a change in her husband and a determination to go over to Europe, Emma guards herself against the tides of war raging across a distant ocean. In London, Frankie Bard, works with Edward R. Murrow. Frankie listens to Murrow's story advice, yet her spirit chafes against the all the strictures and protocol imposed on her. Feisty, fearless and somewhat brash, she wants to get out the truth and stir her listeners to action. In 1941, Frankie rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on the war, listening to the voices of the so-called refugees. As she sees the war unfolding from a different perspective, her whole idea about the story itself changes.

In THE POSTMISTRESS, Sarah Blake looks at World War II through the eyes of three distinct women all connected through means of private and public media. In many ways, THE POSTMISTRESS itself follows Frankie's conception of a news story as story and herein lies the beauty of the novel. Sarah Blake's novel does not follow the traditional concepts of a novel.
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362 of 393 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Review of The Postmistress March 5, 2010
Honestly - I wanted to love this book. I wanted to fall down in adoration and sing its praises and recommend it to everyone I know. I mean - look at it. The cover is beautiful. The title catching, simple, perfect. The premise a beautiful one, the story of two women who were unable to simply.. do their job, in a time when doing their job was one of the hardest things they could possibly do.

So on one hand, while there were moments I was extremely touched (mostly during speeches made and newscasts made), I felt as if Blake stopped just short of really getting somewhere with the character. I felt anger and frustration because I wanted to know these characters. I wanted to know Emma and Iris and Frankie. I wanted to know what made them tick. I wanted to know what made Iris do that incredibly crazy thing at the start and why Frankie felt so compelled to go to London to report the news. I wanted to know why Emma was separated from her husband for so long and how she handled the unexpected gift he left behind for her.

Instead I was left with a story that tried to tell too much in too short a time. Instead of focusing in and really delving into the characters we were only given a glimpse and that is why this book isn't getting the high praise I desperately wanted to give it. I have never felt so incredibly frustrated after reading a novel. There was so much potential here - so much that could have been told.
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227 of 259 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing December 20, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With a setting during WWII and the fairly novel (for the time) idea of a female broadcast journalist at its core, "The Postmistress" seemed like a promising book. To be sure, the author has a way with words, crafting some lovely phrases and metaphors. But ultimately, they are not enough to offset a book that lacks heart, and as a consequence, it was a rather plodding read. Like another reviewer, I only finished it because I felt obligated to review it for the Vine program.

It's hard to figure how a story revolving around one of the seminal events of the 20th century, one that devastated millions of lives and continues to cast an ominous shadow nearly 70 years later, could be tedious, predictable and, at times, even trite, but that's what Sarah Blake has managed to write. The main characters--Frankie, the Smith alum journalist; Emma, the doctor's new wife; Iris, the spinster postmaster of the small Cape Cod town where half the book is set; Harry, the town mechanic and Iris's lover; and Will, the doctor who runs away to London to escape his past and aid victims of the Blitz--are not well enough drawn to elicit any emotional response from the reader (at least not this reader). We never really get to know them except in the most superficial way, and because of that, it's almost impossible to care about any of them. Instead, the author seemed so intent on tying together the rather improbable coincidences in the plot (would Will really run into Frankie in a London bomb shelter after her broadcasts inspired him to leave his wife and help with the British war effort?) that she lost sight of the fact that it is the characters who drive the plot forward. These folks all just seemed along for the ride.

The book also has identity problems.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing April 17, 2010
By Macpac
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was recommended by a friend at work and boy was I disappointed. I chose it as my book club selection and the overall impression from my group was the same. The book was a painfully slow read and was abandoned by 3 of my book clubbers. This has never happened. The characters were poorly developed and not very sympathetic. The name selection was also poor because the postmistress is only one of the many characters and her keeping the letter didn't happen til the end of the book. I thought that was going to be the central idea of the whole book. I LOVED The Help and having Kathryn Stockett endorse this book was very deceiving. Can't choose a book based on who endorses it anymore. Sorry Sarah Blake, maybe next time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 6 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Somewhat confusing story and misleading title. Book seems more about the reporter than the postmistress.
Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Light
A lightly written story on the WWII era even moe lightly tied to the postmistress of a small town. A nice summer read.
Published 17 days ago by garv
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT book!!
Very good book. Had my attention from the 1st page. Characters are very well developed. Some history involved which was very interesting.
Published 18 days ago by Beth Plourde
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I was not fond of this story.
Published 1 month ago by Joy Christiansen
2.0 out of 5 stars like keeping the fact of the doctors death from his ...
too many things that were not reasonal. like keeping the fact of the doctors death from his wife, Sex going on in a bomb shelter? not in 1939/1940. Why did Harry have to die?
Published 1 month ago by Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars pay attention
Woman reporter working for Murrow in London in the early days of WWII, sees, feels and reports the real story. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bonnie Samuel
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summer read
Read with interest. Good summer read.
Published 1 month ago by Nori
5.0 out of 5 stars Great WWII novel
WW II told from a feminine prospective! From the postmistress, to doctor's wife and a female war correspondent, we see a different side to the war! Great book!
Published 1 month ago by Library Lady
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Historical fiction at it's finest
One of my favorites of all times! Great book! Historical fiction at it's finest.
Published 1 month ago by Auntie TD
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More About the Author

Sarah Blake taught high school and college English for many years in Colorado and New York. She has taught fiction workshops at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, MA, The Writer's Center, in Bethesda MD, The University of Maryland, and The George Washington University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, the poet Joshua Weiner, and their two sons.

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