Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Another 5 ***** novel by another previously unfamiliar, to me, author, Sarah Blake, paperback published 2010, 361 pages with supplemental Reader's Guide making it  very suitable for book clubs.  A great tale that opens with the question, "What would you think of a post mistress who chose not to deliver the mail?"  An interesting thought,  how could that happen, so I was ready for Iris James, the  postmaster as she reminded people, "there is no postmistress classification." The tale is set in Cape Cod area of New England in the 1940's  prior to the United States entering World War II.  It is a  historical fictional account of two strong women,  Iris, the town's postmaster and across the ocean, Frannie Bard, a  reporter whose purpose in life is to get at the truth and who is trying to get the US to pay attention to what is happening to the Jews in Germany and the  dreadful bombings of London. from where she reports.  Their lives intersect as Frannie is broadcast back to the states and most follow her.  Besides these two women, there are multiple interesting characters, Harry Vale,   a New Englander,  who becomes Iris' fiancee and self appointed  to keep a coastal watch for German Uboats, Dr Will Fitch who seeks penance by going to London to administer to the people after a patient dies accidentally but he blames himself.  He leaves behind his  wife Emma, whom he does not know is pregnant.  Emma is a needy sort of woman, a clinger,  who comes to know her own strength.  Otto, the town mystery, the one the people suspect to be a Kraut spy.     Rich characters, lives crossed, great writing,  tragedy from the war sprinkled with mystery as to what will happen.  .

As the author comments,  "  It is the story that lies around the edges of the photographs...it's about the lies we tell others to protect them...and about the lies we tell ourselves in order not to acknowledge what we can't bear....and what in the end do we do?"  This novels  weaves around that  concept.  

 Page 3, "Never mind, I.. am old...tired of the terrible clarity of the young..... all of you are young these days."

Page 49:  "  Large and handsome ......Mrs Cripps  stood like a striped tent without an occasion, studying the scene..."

Page 86..."gone to fat, her mother's body, hung like too many coats thrown over a hangar."

Page 245."War was coming....everyone said it, though ......Outside the windows here gulls and swallows divided an undivided sky......if there was a psychology of summer people, it was this: .. Alert and bright they trooped into the post office with letters and cards, wanting to get the work of their vacation out of the way in the morning.""