Ah, The Postmistress. A book that I have seen a lot of talk about. Mostly good. Add a cover that easily swayed my decision. I love the cover! I have read some reviews that say that the cover reminds them of a trashy romance novel. I don't see it. I love the picture of the old letters. The rose, eh, could go either way, but it's simple, beautiful cover. And that's where my love ends.
The year is 1940. Europe is living the devastation of war. America, innocent of the truth whether by choice or by the lack of information, continues her carefree ways. The three heroines of the novel are drawn into the war while America is still on the sidelines. We first meet Iris, who is the postmistress of Franklin, MA. (But wait, she says she is the Postmaster, not a Postmistress.) She is at a doctor's office for an examination and a certificate to prove that she is . . . intact.
Maybe this is a trashy romance.
We next are introduced to Emma. She is on her way to Franklin. She arrives as the blushing new bride of the town doctor. She is on the same train as Iris, reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. We are acquainted to Emma in the line, "Vronsky was making love to Anna."
Okay, it must be a trashy romance.
Then we meet our third heroine, Frankie. She's working with news legend Edward R. Murrow in London. Thankfully sex is not on Frankie's mind (at least not yet). She is too busy trying to open America's eyes to the horrors that are taking place in London and all over Europe. Once I met the characters, I was looking for the story to take off. A quote on the back cover of the novel, from The New York Times, states, "Ms. Blake writes powerfully . . ." So I kept reading, waiting to be powerfully transported to 1940, experiencing the lives of the three women. And I kept reading, waiting, hoping the story would pick up.
Perhaps one of the problems that I had with the novel was that I was expecting the story to be about the Postmistress of Franklin, MA, Iris. I kept expecting a story about the letter she decided not to deliver. The story did not revolve around Iris, but Frankie. It took Ms. Blake roughly 100 pages in a 350 page book to get to the meat of the book. Even then, the writing was lifeless, only the hope that it would get better cheered me on. The writing, the characters, the story was flat. I did not connect to the characters. I could care less what the characters did or what happened to them. I did not even feel as if I were in 1940s. The only indication that I may not be reading about the present day is all of the reference to women smoking. Constantly smoking.
Ms. Blake's only way of emoting frustration is by constantly taking Christ's name in vain. This almost made me put the book down not only because it was annoying, but due to my faith. I kept reading, still hoping. For a brief moment, I was rewarded. For approximately fifty pages, when into Frankie's care comes a letter, and she's traveling Europe to record the story of war, did Ms. Blake write something worth reading. She transported me onto the train, portraying the emotions of her characters and made the war real through the voices of people who were living it. Absentmindedly, I was turning pages, devouring each word, sucked into the story. A spark, a glimpse of what Ms. Blake is capable of is she is honest with her writing. This spark fizzled when Frankie left the train.
Something else left me scratching my head. The title of the book led me to believe that the story would be about Iris. She is the postmistress in the novel, yet her character is adamant that she is the postmaster. Nor was the story mainly about her, as discussed earlier. So I started to think. According to Merriam-Webster, mistress is defined as a woman who has power, authority, or ownership. Out of all the characters, this most describes Frankie. She is in a position of power, responsible for conveying the realities of war to Americans. She belonged to a male-dominated field, living a life that was not common for women in the 40s. She also had power over a letter. A letter that would change the life of someone forever. It also seemed that this letter had some sort of power over Frankie.
Add this to the happenings of all the male characters . . . I don't want to say too much and spoil the book. I wonder if Ms. Blake had more to say to us.
Overall, The Postmistress was a disappointing read for me. I expected more. Perhaps it was the fact that Ms. Blake was attempting to be literary and failed. The story is forgettable as are the characters. Yet there are plenty of people that adored this novel. If the story appeals to you, please give it a go! Maybe you won't be so let down.
Here is an interview from the author about her novel.
Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Publication Year: 2010
Source: Personal Copy
Recommend? No, but I know there are some out there that will love this novel. Even though I didn't enjoy it, it may be for you!