The wireless crackles with news of blitzed-out London and of the war that courses through Europe, leaving destruction in its wake. Listening intently on the other side of the Atlantic, newly-wed Emma considers the fragility of her peaceful married life as America edges closer to the brink of war. As the reporter’s distant voice fills the room, she sits convincing herself that the sleepy town of Franklin must be far beyond the war’s reach. But the life of American journalist Frankie, whose voice seems so remote, will soon be deeply entangled with her own. With the delivery of a letter into the hands of postmistress Iris, the fates of these three women become irrevocably linked. But while it remains unopened, can Iris keep its truth at bay?
I was fortunate enough to win a proof copy of this book in a competition over at GoodReads. And what's better than free books? Getting to review them and have your opinions heard!
Growing up, I was surrounded by WWII memorabilia. My dad was a bit of a fanatic and this rubbed off on me - I remember devouring Teary Deary's Horrible History books on the subject and watching TV adaptations of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Carrie's War. As an adult I still have a keen interest in WWII novels and books such as Kommandant's Girl and The Book Thief are currently on my Keeper shelf. Sarah Blake's novel was a slight change in my WWII literature as it followed three American women and this isn't an aspect I've typically explored before. Being British and having friends in Europe, I've mainly read books set on this side of the world, so it was interesting to see the events of WWII unfold across the Atlantic. Admittedly, I did prefer the scenes where Frankie was traveling across Europe, and it was fascinating to see her uncovering the truth of the war through the lives of the common people. It made me wonder whether we in Britain were also so ignorant to how minorities were being treated by the Nazis. Did we really not understand what was happening to the Jews or were we simply pretending not to notice? Having visited Auschwitz-Birkenau last September and attended seminars with the Holocaust Educational Trust, this is an issue that is very close to home for me.
Although I was fascinated by Frankie's discoveries and work as a radio broadcaster, I didn't find the other two characters - Iris and Emma - as engaging. While I sympathised with Frankie and her struggle to decide how to confront Emma about her husband, I never really felt connected to Emma herself. Her story demanded sympathy but I didn't feel like she herself was fleshed out enough. Iris was the same - she felt a bit two-dimensional. Despite her apparently being the title-character of the Postmistress, the story definitely seemed to revolve around Frankie. This made me think, is Frankie really the Postmistress, with the letter that she can't bring herself to deliver? This idea intrigued me.
I truly found Frankie's sections of the novel exciting and unputdownable, and although I enjoyed the setting of Cape Cod, I never really felt connected to the other characters there. I also felt that there was too much unneeded sex, or discussions about it, injected into the story. I enjoy a good romance and even a well-written sex scene if appropriate, but it didn't seem to flow well with this story and seemed a bit awkward in places. It almost seemed as if Blake had slipped into a Mills & Boon voice which made a couple of moments a bit cheesy and amusing - perhaps not the right tone for this book.
Despite finding two of the main characters rather hard to relate to and care about, and in spite of the awkwardly set up sex scenes, I did enjoy this book and think it's a great debut effort from Sarah Blake. I would look out for her novels in the future and am now more interested in reading American-based WWII novels. 7/10