If you like historical fiction, The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake, is a book in that genre.
The novel details some of the darkest days in modern London during World War II told by a female journalist named Frankie Bard. She works with Edward R. Murrow in relaying the messages of war through the radio. Her voice is heard in a small town in America. Ears are glued to the radio, even in the post office, where the postmaster, Iris James, works.
Frankie inflects tones within her voice that capture the listening audience. Once she is done speaking over the airwaves, she literally is finished with the story, and lacks empathy and interest in finding out the results of the after effects, and affects of the individuals involved. In other words, her job is finished for the day.
From London she travels by train throughout Europe, recording individuals and their stories. While doing this her lack of empathy and comprehension of her surroundings and of the people around her, provoke serious incidents that have horrific repercussions.
I found the fact that Iris is not mentioned often in the book a bit odd, seeing as the title infers her character, making it sound as if she was the central figure. And, by the way, during that time period, the word “postmistress” was never used. Postmaster was the given job title, whether it was a man or woman who held down the job. Iris even mentions that in the book.
I found the characters to be flat, not fully developed, and not individuals I found appealing. I did not like Frankie and her sharp attitude. That is okay. There is nothing to say the reader has to like a character. I will say that the Blake did a good job in depicting her, and the word-images that follow her encounters.
I felt Iris to be a bit to standoffish, and felt that she was much too organized, obsessively so. She ran a tight ship within the realm of the post office and the mail system. Even though she denied it, she did have her mind in other people’s business, knowing who, what and where mail was going, and the whys and wherefores of it. She was a busybody, not a gossip, but one who knew everything about everyone in town.
The Postmistress is a novel not only of time and place, but also one of emotions. The story details the women and how they send, receive and handle the news of war. It is a novel that defines emotions of individuals during a time of crisis and horror. Some are indifferent, some display their feelings, and some control them and inhibit them in order to move through the day. Their resulting emotional state leads them down various paths.
Sarah Blake did an excellent job of bringing imagery to the reader’s mind. Her historical information was spot on, regarding London and the Blitz.
On a scale of one to five, I rate The Postmistress a three.