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The Postmistress” by Sarah Blake is a crisp novel about how news of war in 1939 affects three very different women: Frankie Bard, Emma Fitch and Iris James.
As Iris looks back to the years when it was not quite World War II, “The Postmistress” begins. Not everything was crystal clear then, Iris recalls: Would the Germans invade the U.S.? Should the U.S. get into the war, or was it just Europe’s problem? How could the U.S. absorb all the refugees?
Frankie is a war correspondent who works with Edward R. Murrow in London. One of very few females in her field, Frankie is determined to get involved and tell the stories she sees: Every minute can change a life. The Blitz causes people around her to disappear: Someone she sees regularly on her way to work will be gone one day, a victim of the bombs that rain down randomly on the city.
Frankie’s reports are carried live from London to Cape Cod, where Bostonians summer and kids play on the beach. “Pay attention,” Frankie tells them.
Emma and her husband, Will, pay attention. Orphaned in the flu epidemic of 1918, Emma listens to the tale of a boy who goes home from a shelter after an air raid to find everything and everyone gone.
“What happened to him?” she wonders. No one reports.
Will, the only practicing physician in the town, is drawn to the horror in London, eventually going there to help.
Iris is the Cape’s local postmistress – deliverer of mail and keeper of secrets. She believes in order, is proud of the fact that her post office makes very few mistakes and believes the mail must be delivered.
Although for a while, it seemed events were unfolding “over there,” eventually, the war intrudes on Cape Cod too.
The lives of these three women intersect around a letter: Should it be delivered? Should the news it contains be kept secret?
“The Postmistress” is an exciting war-time novel concerned not with battles or troop movements but with the lives of ordinary people in an uncertain time.