Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Thoughts On The Postmistress

I just finished reading The Postmistress, a novel set in 1940 and 1941...just before America entered World War II.

I could hardly wait to dive into this book. For starters, I had just finished Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which is set in the same time period, and LOVED it. Secondly, The Postmistress was highly recommended by Kathryn Stockett, who authored another of my recently read favorites; The Help. And lastly, I had put this book on my 'Wish List' after seeing it on so many "What's On My Nightstand" posts back in February and March that I just knew it had to be good.

The book jacket leads with "Those who carry the truth sometimes bear a terrible weight..."

The book itself begins with a quote from Martha Gellhorn. "War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever."

I was swept up in the first chapter as Frankie Bard, a journalist who lived through World War II and reported from London during the Blitz, fiercely confronts a modern day dinner parties' speculations on war. This older, perhaps wiser, Frankie made me want to hear her story about the postmistress who chose not to deliver a letter.

I will say that the characters in Sarah Blake's novel are very interesting. We meet Iris James, the 'spinster' Postmaster for Franklin, Massachusetts who believes strongly in duty and order...Emma Fitch, the town doctor's new wife who was orphaned early in life and longs to belong...Will Fitch, the town doctor who is trying to bear the burden of his father's failures in his hometown...Frankie Bard, the journalist and radio announcer who has gone to London to report on the war in hopes that America would wake up to the realities of what is happening over there...Otto Schelling, a foreigner who is new to Franklin and hoping to receive word on his wife who was left behind in Europe due to a paperwork glitch...and scores of others, either on the summer vacation island of Franklin or in war torn Europe.

Unfortunately, I didn't really connect with any of them...and that may be part of Ms Blake's intent. In this novel we tend to see a person's beginning, or their end, or a snapshot of some event in their lives, but never do we see their whole story.

As odd as it may sound, I would still highly recommend this book. It gives you much to think about. Like, is it ever better to NOT tell the truth? Or, how do we continue to live as though everything is normal while another place is at this very moment being torn apart by war?

I went back to Jennifer's review from February over at 5 Minutes For Books after I finished reading this morning. I was quite surprised at how close her opinion of the book was to mine. So, if you would like to hear a little more about The Postmistress, click here to read Jennifer's review.

My favorite quote from the book:

...All these letters, all these words scratched out one to the other, spinning their way toward someone. Someone waiting. Someone writing. That was the point of it all, keeping the pure chutes clear, so that anybody's letter - finding its way to the post office, into the canvas sacks, the many-hued envelopes jostling and nestling, shuffling with all the others- could journey forward, joining all the other paper thoughts sent out minute by minute to vanquish-


And, if you would like to read it for yourself, let me know. I would be happy to pass along my copy!


Brenda said...

interesting may think on it after readind Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet have it beside me here.

Thanks for this reveiw.
I like this quote "War happens to people,one by one. especially the first sentence.
Love you B

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I was composing my comment in my head, thinking "that's what I thought too -- great characters, interesting setting, but I just didn't connect."

Then I saw that you said that we pretty much thought the same way, so you got that!

Thanks for linking up.


Heather J. said...

Interesting question - is it ever better to not tell the truth? That's certainly been one that I've struggled with myself, sometimes choosing one route and sometimes choosing another.

I've heard great things about this book and I usually enjoy the WWII setting so I think I'd like this one.

(I dropped by via 5 Minutes For Books - I Read It! link.)