Book Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

the postmistress

Rating: 2 / 5

In 1940, Frankie Bard is broadcasting from overseas the war, and its effects and consequences on refugees.  Initially, she is in London, where the neighborhood collects in underground bomb shelters nightly.  In America, Iris James is the newly appointed postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts.   Her job is to be a keeper of secrets and facilitator of communications into and out of the town.  Also living in Franklin is Emma Fitch, the wife of Dr. Will Fitch.  Both Emma and Will listen to Frankie’s broadcasts of the war every night.  After a tragedy which Dr. Fitch blames himself for, he decides to go to London to see how he can use his medical expertise to help with the war effort.

I so badly wanted to love this book. How can you not expect a beautifully moving story after seeing the cover? And yet, I didn’t really grasp the point of the novel, or even understand the title of the book. I thought the novel would revolve around the postmistress, Iris James.  Yet her story wasn’t compelling or engaging.  In some parts I even found her a bit boring.  On the other hand, I loved Frankie’s storyline.  Broadcasting from Europe was exciting and informative, and I enjoyed her character immensely.  I think the book would have been better off with her as the main character; there was so much more of Frankie I wanted to learn, to the point of not really wanting to read the chapters dedicated to Iris or Emma. While Emma was somewhat interesting, a back-story was needed to understand her character.  The reader knows she is an orphan, but that in and of itself is not enough to understand or embrace her personality.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy this book as much as others because I didn’t really buy into the coincidences which were the linchpins to the relationship between the women.  Or maybe I didn’t enjoy it because this felt more like three books crammed into one.  More than likely, I am probably disappointed because it wasn’t what I expected, and it wasn’t better than what I expected.  The synopsis made it seem like the story revolved around a pivotal event by the postmistress, but that event didn’t occur until closer to the ending, and in no way impacted the storyline.

Blake’s prose is beautiful and elegant, but The Postmistress lacked direction and character development. However, while I was disappointed with this effort, she is talented, and I think I’ll enjoy her future works.

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