Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Living

February 7, 2012

The Book Shelf: ‘The Postmistress’ a bittersweet tale

JACKSONVILLE — The Postmistress

By Sarah Blake

The Postmistress, a recent best seller by Sarah Blake, is a bittersweet  story set in the WWII era just before America entered the war.  The story revolves around three women in a small New England town.  One, of course, is the postmistress, Iris.  She knows everyone’s business and almost everybody’s sins.  She watches it all and never says a word.  There is the neophyte female journalist, Frankie, who becomes enmeshed in the horrors of the blitz in London, then returns to New England to rest and recuperate.  Lastly, there is the woman who brings them together, Emma, the young wife of a physician.

The opening question is, what would you think of a postmistress who refused to deliver the mail?  That would be a mistake.  But without the mistake there would be no story.  The mistake makes the story.

To quote Ms. Blake:  “How Iris and Frankie come to betray everything they stand for is the war story I hoped to tell.  It is the story that lies around the edges of a photograph or at the end of a newspaper account.  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.”

The story is beautifully written.  Ms. Blake is a genius with a simile:

• Her dress was like a striped tent without an occasion.  

• Shrapnel clattered down on the rooftops like clog dancers without a song.  

• Canned peaches in a bowl holding the gold of last summer.  

Ms. Blake does an admirable job of catching the flavor of this era in history.  It will be nostalgic for those who can recall many of those events.  It will be eye-opening to those not familiar with the horrors of WWII.

I’m not qualified to attribute “stars” to a book, but this one definitely gets my recommendation for a great read, even if you are not hooked on literary fiction.

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