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Postmistress (Blake) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
A book that hits hard and pushes buttons expertly.... The real strength of The Postmistress lies in its ability to strip away readers' defenses against stories of wartime uncertainty and infuse that chaos with wrenching immediacy and terror. Ms. Blake writes powerfully about the fragility of life and about Frankie's efforts to explain how a person can be present in one instant and then in the next, gone forever.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


It is, perhaps, the middle third of The Postmistress that is most poignant and authentic and, I believe, gets at the heart of Blake's intention for this novel: the idea that Americans were not paying attention between 1933 and 1941. In this section, Frankie travels on trains across France in 1941 with Jewish refugees trying to reach Spain or Portugal or a boat west to the Americas. Frankie is using a recording technology, Blake admits in an author's note, that wouldn't have been available to her for another two years, but her interviews with the families are profoundly affecting, and the tension is riveting as each visa is checked. The stakes are high for these refugees, and here the novel soars.
Chris Bohjalian - Washington Post


Splendid novel about the power of words to change people and the world.... The Postmistress possesses the sentimental quaintness of the 2008 hit The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but its spark comes from its enduring message about the need for humanity to step up and fight anyone and anything that threatens our fragile moral code.... In 2010, The Postmistress may stand alone, as did Kathryn Stockett's The Help (also published by Amy Einhorn) in 2009, as a refreshingly honest novel about how a handful of people can help change the world.
USA Today


The Postmistress, its cover emblazoned with a glowing blurb from The Help's Kathryn Stockett, will likely be snapped up by book clubs. There's both exquisite pain and pleasure to be found in these pages, which jump from the mass devastation in Europe to the intimate heartaches of an American small town. As a war rages, and the baby in Emma's belly grows, Frankie and Iris must answer an impossible question: When and how, if at all, should life-altering news be delivered? The ending is a bit of a miss. One final tragedy seems unnecessarily cruel. But in a novel about war, perhaps that is the point. A-
Karen Valby - Entertainment Weekly


Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide. 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.
Publishers Weekly


Frankie Bard is a young female reporter in London during the Blitz, working with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Eric Severeid. Her broadcasts make an impression on the residents of Franklin, MA —Dr. Will Fitch and wife Emma, garage owner Harry Vale, and postmaster Iris James—who in 1940–41 don't know how or if the war will affect them. Harry is sure the Germans are about to land on their beach, while, hearing Frankie talk of an orphaned boy, Emma and Will don't feel the news goes far enough. Iris insists that "there is an order and a reason" to everything, and "every letter sent...proves it." First novelist Blake doesn't let her work fall prey to easy sentimentality; this story is harsh and desperate, as indeed is war, but her writing is incisive and lush: a house missing a piece of mortar, "as if it had been bitten"; a distracted Iris, with "sand…dribbling out of the bag of her attention." Verdict: Even readers who don't think they like historical novels will love this one and talk it up to their friends. Highly recommended for all fans of beautifully wrought fiction. —Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Library Journal


Three women on the eve of America's involvement in World War II consider the volatile nature of truth in the face of tragedy. Iris James is postmistress for the town of Franklin on the tip of Cape Cod. Everyone's secrets pass through her hands, but Iris, a 40-year-old virgin, reveres the ethical standards her position confers, order imposed on the chaos. New to Franklin in September 1940 is Emma, young Dr. Will Fitch's bride, an orphan who hopes that marriage and the close community will bring her the family she's missed. While residents enjoy the quiet of fall on the Cape—everyone but Harry Vale, who perches on the upper floor of Town Hall looking out to sea for U-boats—they listen to the radio broadcasts of Frankie Bard, a pioneering female American journalist covering the Blitz in London. Her report about an orphaned boy prompts Will, reeling from the recent death of a patient during childbirth, to go to London and help the wounded in penance. Frankie briefly meets Will in a bomb shelter, where he makes a disturbing confession: He can't return to his life on the Cape; the war and his usefulness during it have made him happy. Upper-crust Frankie is also exhilarated by the war, but as she and Will exit the shelter the next morning, she sees him hit and killed by a taxi. Frankie's boss, Ed Murrow, sends her to the continent to interview Jewish refugees fleeing Germany; she also witnesses executions and realizes the enormity of the task ahead. Back on the Cape, Emma, heavily pregnant, doesn't know what to make of Will's disappearance. But Iris does; she confiscated the letter informing Emma of Will's death. Then Frankie shows up, surprised that everyone thinks Will is still alive. The loose ends that plague every tale and the fractional nature of knowing are the central themes of this narrative, which plays with the idea of storytelling. Quietly effective work from first novelist Blake.
Kirkus Reviews




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