The Postmistress

  • by Sarah Blake
  • Narrated by Orlagh Cassidy
  • 10 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won't send our boys to fight in "foreign wars."
But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie's radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention--as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight.
Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie's broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin's shores. In charge of the town's mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.
Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town's doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape a fragile childhood and forge a brighter future. When Will follows Frankie's siren call into the war, Emma's worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.
Alternating between an America still cocooned in its inability to grasp the danger at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news, and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it.
Sarah Blake's The Postmistress shows how we bear the ...


What the Critics Say

“Blake captures two different worlds—a naïve nation in denial and, across the ocean, a continent wracked with terror—with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions, such as the merits of truth and truth-telling in wartime.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Matching harrowing action with reflection, romance with pathos, Blake’s emotional saga of conscience and genocide is poised to become a best-seller of the highest echelon.” (Booklist, starred review)
“a moving page-turner from a talented writer.” (Bookmarks Magazine)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Reasonably enjoyable, but too full of stereotypes

I had read so many reviews of this book, all comparing it to The Help. Don't believe the hype! It's a relatively enjoyable listen, and deals with an interesting time in US and world history -- before the US entered the war, and as the world was just learning about the fate of Europe's Jews. But the characters are just too stereotyped: the plucky girl reporter, drinking whiskey with the boys and having anonymous sex during London's blackouts; the middle-aged, no-nonsense postmistress experiencing romance for the first time (and getting a certificate of virginity from her puzzled doctor -- ick!); and the timid wife whose doctor husband runs away from a medical mistake by deciding to tend to victims of war in London. The young wife character is never developed -- maybe we could forgive her timidity and vapidity if we had been given any sense of why we are supposed to care about her or what strengths she has besides being a little doll her husband can protect. The scenes of the "radio gal" doing her reports from London are quite interesting, and her encounters with doomed Jews in France and Germany are chilling. But we don't end up caring that much about the characters, and there's nothing surprising or compelling in their fates. And so many loose ends are never tied up. The narrator is terrible at accents -- her British accent and her New England accent often sound the same, and her French pronunciation is appalling -- and she often pronounces Edward R. Murrow's name as "Mur-ROW." This book was a decent diversion but more frustrating than rewarding.
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- Babs "Addicted to Audible!"


The is quite a different scene altogether from "The Help". While "The Help" is as serene and bucolic as its location in time and place (though not in attitudes and events), "The Postmistress" is as lurching, violent, and dislocating as its own particular theater in history.

As a baby boomer, born just after WW II ended, I have always been curious as to how the war affected the millions of regular folks, as well as the journalists who courageously brought the war events to those my parents' age, older and younger, back here in the States. While there is an author's note as to the recording technology that was not actually available until after the period of time traversed by "The Postmistress", this did not in any way affect the nuance and depth of the story.

The ambiance of Cape Cod plays a major role in the novel as well, and functions as another character. As a summer resident of one of the nearby islands where there was constructed an an entire Army base during WW II, I could well relate to one of the characters who patiently stands guard atop a town hall in order to spot the rogue U-boat.

I would caution the reader - this is not light reading, and perhaps because I am in the arts I have a highly developed imagination and thus felt all the pain, abandonment, violence that is a feature of any war venue. There is an undertow of sadness throughout the book that is not for the feint of heart.

The use of the mail system as metaphor for communication in general, and the nomenclature that changes from "Postmaster" to "Postmistress", is a brilliant device, and without spoiling, there are several characters who qualify for the position, charged with delivering difficult messages.

Beautifully written, this novel gets 5 stars on any scale.
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- Pamela Harvey "glam"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio