Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Postmistress

Finished October 21
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, read by Orlagh Cassidy

This novel jumps back and forth between London, England and the small Cape Cod town of Franklin, Massachusetts in the months before the United States entered World War II. In London, we have American journalist Frankie Bard, first giving war commentary on the radio to folks back home, and later travelling into Germany and German-occupied France to gather the story of refugees.
In Franklin, we have Iris James, the postmistress, a strong, upright woman who has recently fallen in love with an older man, Harry. She knows that Harry is the man for her and takes the step of getting a doctor's certificate proving her virginity, a document that means a lot to her and she believes will mean a lot to Harry too. Iris is a watcher, watching the people of the town, their comings and goings, and caring about them. Harry is also a watcher, but he is watching for threats from outside, specifically for German u-boats. Every day, he goes up in the town hall and watches the ocean.
New to town is Emma, the doctor's new wife. Emma has led a life filled with loss, with both her mother and older brother dying in the influenza pandemic when she was a child. Her relationship with Will gives her a home and the love she has craved. They are very close, but Will feels the need to prove himself as a result of his late father's reputation in town. As a new doctor, when he loses a patient, he takes it personally and struggles with the guilt he feels around it. The need to make penance for this drives him away from his home and Emma toward danger in a move that sets him down a new path.
Also, in Franklin a more minor character, Otto, has a role. Otto rooms with Harry and works for him in the local garage, and has an obvious German accent. The townspeople make assumptions about him and treat him as a threat to them, imported from the war overseas.
As we see these stories evolve, and eventually come together in a way that brings all these lives to a meeting place, we see the effect of the war and people's choices on others.
A wonderful story, with strong characters and interesting storylines. Seeing war through different eyes with focus on the home front and the refugees results in a very engaging read.

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