The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: The Second World War has started in Europe. Two strong, independent, American women have their part to play: one is responsible for the written word being delivered in letter form and the other delivers the news over the airwaves.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 9780670918683

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The reader is in no doubt that a war is raging. And bombs were falling on Coventry, London and Kent. Sleek metal pellets shaped like the blunt tipped ends of pencils ... The Americans however, are carrying on with their daily lives regardless. They are completely unfazed and uninvolved. Apart from one or two, namely radio reporter Frankie. She reports from London as it happens and she is gradually becoming more and more concerned that her fellow Americans will be called upon. But she seems to be a lone voice blowing in the wind. Also, as you may expect, there are plenty of raised eyebrows as to why a woman is doing a man's job. She should be at the kitchen sink or having babies, shouldn't she?

The other feisty no-nonsense American in this novel is The Postmistress Iris. From her tiny community on Cape Cod she tunes in regularly to Frankie's war updates. The third member of the female trio is introvert, newly-married doctor's wife, Emma. And Blake treats the reader to some lilting, descriptive passages explaining how Emma met her new husband. Basically, as a bit of a mouse she can't seem to believe her luck. Now she's somebody as opposed to nobody. She feels like a fish out of water in Cape Cod's tight, little community (if you'll excuse the pun). And here Blake takes the golden opportunity to give the reader a detailed flavour of the area, via Emma's newly-acquired guidebook. It is so lovely and evocative that you can almost taste the tang of the sea.

The three women's lives cross at some point. And because of Blake's smooth and easy style, you don't get any sense that this coincidence has been 'engineered' in any way. In fact, the whole novel with its gentle prose kind of creeps up on you unawares and before you know it - you're hooked.

I loved Frankie's whole work ethic. She certainly has her own distinct way of extracting a story. And through her keen, journalistic eyes we see the horrors of war laid bare before us: the bombings of London, the death and destruction. Frankie firmly believes in the immediacy of the spoken word. She is very professional and has a bit of a cult following. This leads to some very unexpected reporting which truly tests her. She comes face to face with death and it spooks her. She thought she was made of sterner stuff. But then, as we've heard many times, war can do strange things to people.

I found Emma's husband an interesting character. An unfortunate medical incident sees him fleeing over to the UK to 'help.' That's all very commendable but is his rather nervous young wife able to cope on her own? These various and varied situations are played out on the printed page in a delicate but easy, conversational style. For me, I found the second part of the novel more intriguing, on the whole. Frankie, in my opinion, shares double billing with The Postmistress as both their lives are complex and interesting. As Frankie buries herself deeper into the war situation there are many paragraphs given over to the cruelty of wars. This novel will make you weep, will make you stop and think, may even make you smile. Blake's prose is often heart-rending. This novel will probably stay with you long after you've read the last page. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Goodnight Sweetheart by Charlotte Bingham

Buy The Postmistress by Sarah Blake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Postmistress by Sarah Blake at

Buy The Postmistress by Sarah Blake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Postmistress by Sarah Blake at


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