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March 7, 2011 / Leslie

Review: The Postmistress

The Postmistress
by Sarah Blake
Read by Orlagh Cassidy

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: February 2010
Format: 9 CDs | 11 Hours
Rating: 4½ of 5

What would happen if someone didn’t deliver a letter?

Back in 1941, before the day of instant communication, such an act was unthinkable. Entire lives could be dramatically altered by such a delay. Marriages that might never happen, job offers never taken and questions gone unanswered for a lifetime. Frankie Bard, a radio journalist who covered World War II and broadcast reports from Europe, posed this question to a group of dinner guests. She then proceeded to tell us the story of an undelivered letter.

It is 1941, the eve of America’s involvement in WWII. Iris James is the postmaster in Franklin, Massachusetts, a position rarely held by woman in that era, and she takes the responsibilities of her job seriously. Emma Trask, a young newly wed whose husband, a doctor, has gone to London to help with the war effort, is frequently at the post office waiting for his letters. At the same time Frankie Bard is in Europe on assignment reporting from the Blitz in London. The novel tells the story of these three women alternating between the two continents.

Even though reports of the bombings in London were reaching America the war was not a reality for most Americans. The author uses Frankie Bard’s radio broadcasts from London and her experiences traveling into Germany and other parts of Europe to demonstrate the contrast between America and Europe. Most Americans felt Roosevelt would never involve their boys in the war. Yes, there were blackouts and fears of a potential attack, but it was not the same intensity as what was happening abroad.

Other reviews have already mentioned this, and I agree, the title The Postmistress does not reflect what the book is about. If you read this book looking for a story about a postmistress you will be disappointed. The delayed letter and Iris James are a small part of the bigger story. The damage done to the people, to future generations and the land they lived in stood out as an overriding theme in this novel. The story is Frankie’s to tell. She wants to tell the story of the people most affected by this war. The Jews who are fleeing Germany, the people in London who have bombs raining down on them daily. She feels no one is listening to her. She records the voices of the people and wants to tell their story.

The book is beautifully written with flowing descriptive prose that brought the story to life. While there may have been a few liberties taken with the period detail (Frankie used a recording device that was not available until after the war) it did not detract from the story for me. I listened to the audio version and was very satisfied with the narration. Orlagh Cassidy has a pleasant voice and did a wonderful job with the various accents and in distinguishing the different characters.

Highly recommended.
Source: Borrowed audio CDs from the library.



Leave a Comment
  1. Coffee and a Book Chick / Mar 7 2011 3:45 pm

    This is definitely one I’ve been meaning to read, but I love that you enjoyed the audio version! I’ve been trying to get into audio books lately, and at first I was struggling with finding a good one. So far, I’ve only found a couple that I’ve enjoyed, so I will make sure to download this one, too! Thanks for putting the audio version of this book on my radar! 🙂


  2. Suko / Mar 7 2011 4:07 pm

    Very nice review of the audio version, Leslie. I am currently reading this book. Please stay tuned for my review.


  3. Rebecca Rasmussen / Mar 7 2011 6:06 pm

    This is an excellent review, Leslie! XOX


  4. bermudaonion / Mar 8 2011 6:19 am

    I enjoyed this book, too, but I think you liked it a little more than I did.


  5. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea / Mar 9 2011 8:21 pm

    What a well done review Leslie. I did read this, and liked it but I am always annoyed when authors use a real town name, but get the locale wrong. Franklin, MA is not on Cape Cod…gezzzzz


  6. Kate / Mar 11 2011 10:32 am

    Sounds like a great one! I just added it to my wishlist.

    I linked this review over at Kate’s Library in my Friday Five!


  7. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) / Mar 11 2011 8:24 pm

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this book. I’ll be reading it very soon for a blog tour. I will link to your review on War Through the Generations.


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