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a strong beginning withers into tedium
on August 3, 2011
Sarah Blake's novel starts off as a compelling read; the writing is lovely and the introduction of the characters stokes one's curiosity - who are they, what are they really about and where are they headed? Unfortunately, about midway through the book, the story is diminished by its thinness and, as many have noted, the lack of character development. The period is intriguing - WWII prior to US involvement - and Blake captures the isolationist feelings well, symbolized by inward-looking Cape-Codders. Radio broadcasting, too, from that time is well-researched as is the sense of human dread within Europe as Nazism takes hold. But the central premise of withholding a letter and the consequences therein don't measure up to an engaging read - by the end of the book, this reader found this plot tool way too drawn out and ultimately unimportant in the scheme of things considering the times.
I didn't really feel I got to know any of the characters after the early excitement of meeting them and I agree with other reviewers that the constant switching of narrating voice added to that problem. Emma seemed weak and pathetically wishy-washy - I mean for God's sake, stop dragging yourself to the post office and try and find out what happened to your husband! Husband Will's rash act to put himself in harm's way during London's blitz seemed a strange and ultimately selfish atonement. Frankie and Iris, both strong women, seem diluted and dull as the story winds down.
I couldn't wait to pick the book up again in the early chapters, but found it tiresome and uninteresting as it devolved into sentimentality and a tedious attempt at philosophical "what-ifs".