Friday, September 3, 2010

Fourty-one: The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

I rate this book in my top 10 of books I read this year.  I could not put the book down and the writing just drew me in.  I've always had a fascination with World War II even since I did a report on Schindler's List in high school.  I think also my fascination comes from trying to understand what that time period was like here in the US and what my grandparents lived through.

The Postmistress follows the lives of three woman - Iris, Frankie & Emma - as they cope with the war and telling the truth.  Frankie Bard is an American who broadcasts on Edward Murrow's radio show the conditions in London during the Fall of 1940.  She learns to capture the scene through her vivid storytelling and calm voice.  Back in the states, Emma and her new husband Will, the local doctor, listen to Frankie's stories every night.  One night after losing a patient, Will decides he wants to join up with the war effort and help out in London.  Emma cannot understand why he wants to go to the war and leave her all alone in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Iris, the local postmistress in Franklin, keeps tabs of the residents via their mail.  She has a crush on Henry Vale the owner of the local gas station.  Their courtship starts slowly and grows into an urgency of love and caring that only wartime "fears" can create. Henry is sure that the Germans will send their U-boats to attach the US.  He anxiously scans the coast line every day looking for the first sign of their coming.

After Frankie loses a journalist friend - Hannah - to the bombings, she is determined to take up Hannah's cause of showing the world what is happening to the Jews in Europe.  She persuades Murrow to let her go into the field in France and Spain and capture the voices of the travelers as they try to escape the war.

Sarah Blake intertwines these lives together both in Franklin and in London.  She allows the reader to feel the emotions that the characters are feeling.  Many times I felt I could picture Frankie in the bomb shelter or Emma sitting on the porch waiting for Will to come home.  Although the title suggests the main character is Iris - it is Frankie that ends up connecting everyone together.  I definitely recommend this book.

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