Book Review: The Postmistress

The Postmistress

Sarah Blake

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

336 pages

I doubt I would ever have picked The Postmistress up on my own.  The title and the cover do nothing for me.  They aren’t bad, but there’s nothing there to capture my interest.  The plot seemed interesting enough but I wasn’t driven to pick it up.  Then it started showing up everywhere–book blogs, newspapers–you name it.  By then, I figured I needed to join the club and read the book so I would be “in the know”.

The setting is Franklin, Massachusetts during World War II–a small coastal town that is aware of the war, but not really involved.  The cast of characters includes Iris James, the postmistess, along with Harry Vale, a bachelor pining after Iris, and Will and Emma Fitch, the town’s young doctor and his wife.

Will Fitch is haunted by his father’s past and, as a result, when a local woman dies during childbirth when he is attending, he is overcome with guilt.  He makes the decision to go to London and help out with the victims of war, leaving Emma behind.  Emma is distraught.  I think she feels like Will is going over for the wrong reasons and she is scared of losing him.

Meanwhile, you have a young journalist, Frankie Bard, broadcasting over from London.  She is immersed in the war and its aftermath and eventually begins following the Jewish refugees that are trying to flee Europe.  The situations she experiences and the stories she captures are uneblievable and heartbreaking.  At one point, she meets Dr Fitch while hiding out during one of the bombing blitzes in London and her story becomes interwoven with those of the residents in Franklin, Mass.

From this point on, I don’t feel that I can accurately portray my reactions to the book without including some spoilers, so unless you want to know some major happenings in the book, you may want to skip the following part.

Dr Fitch dies in London.  His death is witnessed by Frankie and at the time she comes into possession of the last letter Dr Fitch wrote to his wife.  She carries the letter with her for the next few weeks as she travels through Europe, debating what to do with the letter.  Meanwhile, Emma is oblivious to her husband’s death, although his letters to her have ceased.

Before Dr Fitch left home, he gave a letter to Iris to give to Emma in the event that he died.  Iris eventually realized that Dr Fitch has probably died after receiving a letter from his landlord stating that he has been missing.  However, she cannot bring herself to tell Emma, so she pretends as if the letter was never received and declines to give it to Emma.

Eventually, Frankie comes to town and realizes that Emma is ignorant to her husband’s death.  After a period of time, the truth is revealed.

End of spoiler.

I rued over the idea of hiding harmful information from people once I finished The Postmistress.  Iris took her job as postmistress very seriously, so the fact that she was even was willing to tamper with the mail in the first place was a shock.  Her motives were innocent, so did that make it ok for her to hide the truth?  I don’t know.  I think everyone is guilty of not offering up information if they know it will hurt someone.  I have for sure.  I am kind of stuck on this issue truthfully.

I wasn’t thrilled with The Postmistress.  In no way did it exceed, or even meet, my expectations.  I found some parts of the book intriguing and interesting, but other parts fell flat.  I think I am in the minority on this though and despite being more ambivalent about the book than most, I would still recommend it to others.

Other Reviews:

She is too Fond of Books

Devourer of Books

The Book Lady’s Blog

Linus’s Blanket

Joyfully Retired

Steph & Tony Investigate!

Sasha and the Silverfish

I borrowed this book from my local library.

I read this book for the Women Unbound challenge.

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8 Responses

  1. This is on my wishlist for a while now. Unavailable in India!

  2. The ending definitely made me angry, because I was in the camp that she should not have hid the mail and I struggle to come to terms with what she did. I still think the truth should have been told but Emma was sort of clear about not wanting to know.

    I enjoyed the observations that Blake made but I had to work really hard to stay in the book and figure out who everyone was. It was a bit jumbled at times, but the ending brought it together a bit more. I enjoyed the discussion of your feeling in this review.

  3. While you didn’t like the book as much as I did, it’s clear that it impacted you — I agree, a lie (cover-up, withholding info) is a lie, no matter the “good intention.” Isn’t it interesting that Iris thinks her decision is best for Emma? Do you think Iris’ relationship w/Harry influenced that decision (if she wasn’t romanticly involved, would she have been as sensitive to Emma’s feelings/emotions?)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – it’s got me re-evaluating my choices/reactions. Thanks, too, for the link to my review!

  4. I do want to read this one (I won a copy). Sorry u were a little disappointed. The premise sounds good.

  5. Hmm interesting. I like the cover.

  6. I liked this one although I was hoping for more. I liked the parts in Europe quite a bit. I’m not sure the title really fits the crux of the story.

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