The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

postReviewed by Cy Hilterman

This novel should become a real masterpiece. Sarah Blake captures the reader, transplants them into the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and places them in the minds and bodies of those living before and during World War II. From a small New England town Frankie Bard went to London and researched news and interest for Edward R. Murrow, the voice America knew as he reported for CBS from London and vicinity during that war. Frankie eventually started doing her small bits on Mr. Murrow’s show. Her voice also became known from her own human-interest stories and news.

The area was a sea of bombed and burned out buildings from which the residents of the area fled when the warning sirens went off and hustled to get underground to the protected shelters. As they stayed in those crowded shelters they could hear bombs going off above and feel the blast of the shells. They could smell the burning buildings, and taste the dust that crept into every corner of the city, above and beneath ground.

Back in the United States Iris James became the Postmistress of the post office that happened to be in the same town where Frankie Bard lived. The town was directly on the coast with some of those in town always on the lookout for German submarines surfacing off their coast. The war was far away but one never knew about the Germans and their war machine. Emma and Will Fitch had married. Will was the town doctor. Will got the urge to go to England to help all the wounded but of course, Emma was dead set against that. She knew after a short time that Will would never be happy until he did leave and tend to those in misery. Little did Will know that Emma was pregnant when he left and he would not find out as long as he was away.

The descriptions sent out to the world by Frankie and Edward Murrow gave an idea of just how bad London and surrounding areas had been hit but still the people were so resilient that they bounced back. Of course there were casualties, wounded and dead, but those able had to carry on, and they indeed did. The United States was not in the war yet even though many around the world felt they should be. Frankie asked permission of Edward Murrow to go to Germany and other nations under their control to report what she was able. Being American she could travel fairly easy but when she did travel, the brutality she saw hurt her deeply. She reported it as well as possible but the censors stopped all but the normal news, or in some situations she could “code” words or phrases to get the news out. She saw the persecution of the Jews, the killing of those considered a “danger” to the Germans, the torture of humans, and the hurt imposed on their daily lives.

Frankie had a primitive recording device she used to record the sounds and voices of those she met along the way. When she ran out of recording discs she recorded over at least one of them not knowing what would be on that disc. Frankie eventually and suddenly went home to try to recoup her mind and body but there was no way to get the horrible things she had seen out of her memory. She tried to fit into the small town again but had a very hard time talking to people. She kept seeing and hearing things from her trip. She played and replayed the discs.

Here I will stop describing this fantastic book. By now you have to have whetted your minds appetite to read this book. If “Postmistress” doesn’t win a lot of writing awards I will be very disappointed. Sarah Blake knows how to write and she had the perfect subjects of war and humans entwined in that war. You will never forget what you read and you will have a hard time forgetting the characters involved in every location where the story occurred. Thank you so much Sarah Blake.

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