Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake (Kindle)


Sometimes the patterns that you start to see in your reading and real lives become eerily synchronized. You begin to feel that the moons are aligned, or there is some alien up there playing with their version of a Rubik's cube, and your face is on one of the squares. Take, for example, this book, "The Postmistress". I got REALLY pumped about its release about a year ago, bought it on my Kindle on THE day it published, and it sat there until I was invited by Lisa to review it on the TLC Blog Tour. This situation may not sound familiar to you, but this is almost exactly what happened with The Lotus Eaters, which, after all that waiting, became a five star read for me in 2010. There has got to be a lesson in all of this somewhere.

But not only are the circumstances of reading the books the same, but both novels are about strong women coping during a time of war. Both books even feature a female journalist. And ultimately, I loved both books immensely. Here is a little about "The Postmistress":

Synopsis: 1939, three women, one war, one man. In London, Frankie Bard is a young, feisty radio journalist who is determined to tell the world what is happening...the bombs, the death, the Jewish refugees, the randomness. Across the ocean, in a small seaside town in Massachusetts, Iris James, a middle-aged postmaster, watches over her town, and all information about this threatening war, the letters and telegrams, passes through her hands to the townsfolk. Emma Fitch, a young bride, visits the post office daily to hear word from her new husband, a doctor that joined the efforts in London after tragically losing a patient here at home. All three women are linked together by the invisible common thread of Dr. Fitch, Emma's husband. Little do they know that Dr. Fitch will cause each woman to question their faith, their morals, the meaning of war, and their reason for being.

Surrounding these women are a very diverse, complex cast of characters. A widower with five small children, a quiet Austrian Jew who pines for his missing wife, a mechanic who finds love with Iris late in life, a little boy who lost his mother in a London bombing, and a myriad of refugees whose recorded voices tell the story of their lives.

My thoughts: Even though I initially bought this book with high expectations in February 2010, the subsequent reviews were mixed and my interest waned. A year has passed, and I went into this read with my heart a blank slate. Granted, I will admit to having a bit of an obsession with war novels, particularly WWII, so there's that. But I was unprepared for the flood of emotion that filled me while reading this book. It swept me away, and I ended up reading this book in only about two days. (I drug my Kindle around with me like a security blanket...in the car on the way to church, at a football game, by the stove while I was cooking, while I was waiting to pick up the kids. It received preference over my iPod, and that is a huge statement for me.)

Each of the women had very distinct characters, each likable but flawed. Frankie spoke the loudest to me...full of that kickass mentality you must have to exist in a man's world, but ultimately affected by the horrors of war, and desperate to do something to make a difference. All of the women, though, made choices as a form of mental survival that were contradictions against their best instincts. And I didn't blame them.

The images drawn by Blake, scenes of bravery and loss, as seen by Frankie in her European travels, are something that will stay with me for a long time. Very brief but vivid, graphic scenes, human stories from men, women and children who probably didn't live out the day...they made an imprint on my heart. It drove home the point that we often don't get to see what happens to the people with whom we cross paths. Did they live, or die, did they someday become reunited, did they reach their destination? We never know, and this is what haunts Frankie and drives her to take the actions that she did.

Halfway through the book, I began to question the title of the book. "The Postmistress" would imply that the book centers around Iris and her post office in America. And a piece of the story does hinge around her. But the bulk of the plot rested heavily on Frankie's shoulders, and that is when it dawned on me like a slap upside the head. Frankie IS the postmistress, and it is her that is narrating at the very beginning of the book. (If you've read the book, are you now saying "Duh"? Maybe I'm slow. Don't laugh!) I love it when I have these epiphanies and all the pieces come together.

So yet again, another book, languishing for months on my (virtual) shelf, only brought to the forefront by the nudging of Lisa at TLC, rocks my world. (And yes, of course, it IS an Amy Einhorn imprint.) Put this one on your must list.

5 out of 5 stars






24 comments:

caite said...

wow, another 5 out of 5...
I think it is great to approach a book without any expectations, good or bad.
Now I don't share you WWII love but...

farmlanebooks said...

I'm still not sure about this one. I keep seeing it everywhere, but there is something at the back of my head saying it isn't for me. I even passed up the chance to get a free copy from a book event I went to. I might have to get a copy out of the library, but I'm so torn.

Susan said...

I picked this one up at Goodwill a few weeks ago, and now it will be the next one I pick up to read, except I think I may have loaned it to my MIL first. Dang!

Promise me that that nugget about Frankie being The Postmistress isn't going to ruin it for me! You wouldn't do that, would you? :)

I'm a nut for WWII stories, too.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think I go in the "duh" camp!

Beth F said...

I really liked this book, but there was an event at the end that I didn't like -- that I didn't think added to the book. But that may have been just me.

Zibilee said...

I have been on the fence about this book, but not any longer! I read a few glowing reviews, and then quite a few negative ones, so this book just sort of fell off my radar and I thought perhaps it wasn't for me. Now I see that I have totally been missing out and will be buying this one as soon as I can. Thanks for the very well written and enticing review. I will have to let you know what I think of it!

Dizzy C said...

New to your blog and now following.

I loved The Postmistress.

Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.
Another uplifting story from WWII?

I am looking forward to Letters from home.

carol
http://dizzycslittlebookblog.blogspot.com/

LisaMM said...

Of course there's a lesson here- never turn down a chance to be on a TLC tour! LOL

Great review as always, Sandy! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for being on the tour!

Care said...

I love how you had to put it aside and let your expectations fade! (is that accurate?) I really am not sure I will like this one and keep putting it off. Maybe in a few years...

Ti said...

What you said there at the beginning is how I obtain most of my books. I feel as if I MUST have them, I purchase them...and there they sit.

Well I'm glad this one paid off for you. For some reason, I have no desire to read it. Maybe it's the war theme... I am not big on war themes.

Julie P. said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much!

The Bumbles said...

This imprint seems to have a knack for leaving an imprint on readers hearts. Amy Einhorn selections can always be counted on for quality.

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book, but don't think I liked it as much as you did. I found the transitions at the beginning difficult, so it took me a while to get into the book. I'm glad it rocked your world!

Avid Reader said...

I think I got caught up in the hype on this one and it just couldn't live up to my expectations. I wish I'd waited a year and just enjoyed it for what it was. I loved Frankie's story though.

Melissa said...

I enjoyed this one, but I didn't love it like you did. I really enjoyed the characters, and the shifts between stories. I read it when my reading time was broken up and there would be days between setting the book down and picking it back up again. Maybe I would enjoy it a bit more now.

Carrie K. said...

I loved it, too - and your review just reminded me of all the reasons why. I read it weeks ago, but my review doesn't go up for the tour until the 29th. :)

Kathleen said...

Glad you discovered another gem on your shelves. I'm sure I have more than a few on my TBR pile too. I'm pretty sure I have this one on my list to read already but will check to be sure after your glowing review!

Melody said...

I need to move this book up my TBR pile after reading so many rave reviews on it!

Jenners said...

Now you have to find another book to download and ignore so you have another 5 star book to read in a year!

I was kind of lukewarm on this based on what I've read so far but your review has me reconsidering.

Trisha said...

There is something so satisfying about loving a read after it has been languishing on your shelves...

Stephanie said...

So glad you liked this book. I just finished it (but won't get my review up for TLC for awhile) but really enjoyed it also!

Alyce said...

This one was on my radar but I didn't know that much about it. I'll have to add it to my wish list.

Booksnyc said...

I really enjoyed this book - I know the reviews have been mixed but I unequivocally loved it!

I listened to it on audiobook and the scenes where Frankie is broadcasting the voices of the refugees translated very well to that format.

Anna said...

You know I jumped at the chance to be on this tour. I'll be reading it soon. I was hesitant because of the mixed reviews, but I can't turn down what sounds to be a great WWII novel. I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.