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The Postmistress
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on June 16, 2014
Would not have picked this book up on my own but it was my Cover to Cover book club's choice. With the questions provided in the book this was a really lively discussion. One participant said that finding out that the recording device, that played a big part in the story, hadn't actually been invented until after the war, ruined the book for her. I didn't find that a problem. My thought was that the Postmistress chopping down the flag pole, after her husband died, wasn't realistic. Since there was nothing in the book saying that she chopped wood, before this event, I don't believe she would have been able to do that. Chopping wood is a skill set and if you don't do it you don't know how to do it. It also require a lot of upper body strength that couldn't come from cancelling letters.
To me the recording device, that couldn't have existed, and the chopping scene, that I think couldn't have happened, did nothing to spoil the story. Great pick for your book club!
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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".
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on June 17, 2012
Introduced from the present day on a question of a postmaster withholding a letter, the main story takes place during WWII, prior to the American involvement. Three women figure predominantly in the story- Iris, the postmaster in a small coastal town, who is falling in love for the first time, Emma, recently married to the town doctor, and Frankie, who works in radio with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the bombings from London. The man Iris loves is convinced that the Germans will arrive on their shores, Emma's husband is wracked with guilt from his father's actions and his own mistakes, and volunteers in England. Frankie is trying to find a way to tell the "truth" of those around her. When tragedy strikes her friend, she takes up her cause of the deportations and round-ups of Jews and others by the Germans. She also witnesses another tragedy that directly impacts the other two women. Iris holds back a letter that may destroy Emma. A trip into France by Frankie allows her to see some of the true horrors of the Nazis and record some of the voices of the dispossessed. The historical context was very interesting, but I found the characters to lack something in dimension, which made them less easy to relate to. The author includes some notes on the real history of events that inspired the book.
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on November 26, 2011
The summary led me to expect a very different story than what this book actually is. Forget about what it says about the Postmistress pocketing a letter. That is largely irrelevant to the plot. There is a different letter that is much more important and even that is not really the major part of the plot.

The story is about three women Emma, the doctor's wife who doesn't seem to have an identity of her own except in the eyes of her new husband, Iris, the titular postmistress who feels she has a sacred trust to keep the mails moving and thus the world spinning on its axis and Frankie, the radio correspondent who has been through the trauma of the mass exodus in Europe in the early days of the war and philosophises entirely too much.

It is mostly Frankie's story. She has the most pages and her actions are the most important to the story.

The book has aspirations to being some kind of literary masterpiece and in that it falls short. It is not a romance either because the romantic aspects touch only tangentially to the story. It is a very melancholy book with people saying and doing things that I don't think they really would in real life.

It has its interesting moments but not enough of them. If the best praise you can give a book is that you don't want it to end then I must say that I was very glad when I finished the Postmistress.
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on October 23, 2017
The slow beginning is more than made up for as the story moved along. I had hoped for a different outcome but was pleased with the finish. A good read.
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on April 12, 2010
This book had elegant prose and some unique perspectives in portraying the time of WWII, before America's involvement. Readers can feel America trying to pulling away from the war, to not be involved - but then realizing that they must become involved. The author shows us these things very well. She also has created various characters to help us understand the times and show us how they must have viewed the current events. The best drawn character and the one I best understood was Frankie the news reporter who learned first hand of the atrocities and came to believe America needed to enter the war. She felt it was her duty to make reluctant Americans willing to enter the fight. Emma the doctor's wife needed more story to her. Her plight was sympathetic, but somehow she wasn't. And we don't really know how she was to go on after the book ended. The Doctor felt he needed to go off to fight the war in his own way and leave his family because of he was taking the blame for an unfortuntate death on his watch. But by the end of the book, it seems he is fortelling his own death - for what reason? It almost gave the reader the impression he was suicidal. Otto the Austrian Jew could have been a wonderful character, but was never developed. We know he was uncomfortable in the town and was not accepted, but he doesn't grow or change and the town doesn't change in their perceptions of him, so I don't understand his role in the story. He was given a glimmer of hope that his wife might still be alive, but then nothing. As for Harry and Iris, I am at a complete loss. Their relationship is strange and doesn't seem to grow. The book is called The Postmistress and I loved the idea of her keeping a letter back, but it really didn't go anywhere. The letter she didn't deliver wasn't solid information and didn't change anything by being withheld. The author did a good job of letting readers feel that, to Iris, intercepting the mail was a very big deal, but then nothing happened when she did. Harry was vindicated in his suspcions that German U Boats would come to America, but then he immediately has a heart attack and dies?

I felt this book could have been great. The idea of a postmistress holding back a letter (or more!) and being the town watchdog is novel and enchanting, but it just wasn't developed here. I really wanted to love the book because I loved the idea, and the writing and even the beautiful cover - but the book needs more work.
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on November 15, 2016
I really liked this book. It was well-written, engaging, and educational. I think that the plight of refugees never changes. Only what country they come from changes. It is a WWII novel, written from yet a new perspective; one insightful for all times. It could be a classic. I read this some time ago, and still find myself thinking about the story.
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on April 7, 2017
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on October 2, 2017
Very well done. Gives a vivid feeling about events during the war.
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on December 4, 2014
I thought this book left a lot to be desired. I realized when the book was over that there was no point to the book.
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