Monday, May 17, 2010

THE POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake (2010)

It is 1940, France has fallen to the Germans and FDR promises Americans that their boys will not need to serve in foreign wars. Enter the unflappable Frankie Bard, a radio producer working in London for Ed Murrow--yes, that Murrow. Her dispatches during the Blitz reach across the Atlantic into the hearts of Americans as she reports on ordinary folk going about their business in extraordinary circumstances. Through her flatmate Harriet, Frankie becomes interested in the unreported story of the Jewish refugees streaming across Europe and soon becomes obsessed with recording their voices.

Back in a small town near Cape Cod, the town mechanic Harry Vale searches in vain for German U-Boats that he is convinced will surface off the coast and bring the war to his doorstep. Iris James, the postmistress in Franklin, is certain that Harry is right. When Frankie Bard shows up mysteriously in Franklin for respite in the summer of 1941, Harry and Iris befriend her and in time realize that in spite of their instincts to tell the truth or to deliver the mail no matter the circumstance, they are unable to do just that when it means protecting someone as vulnerable as Emma Fitch.

This beautiful and haunting novel reminds us how we bear the wars that go on around us as our ordinary lives rumble along from one day to the next. Although THE POSTMISTRESS is firmly set in the 1940s, it could be set today as the contemporary resonances are emotionally true.

If you are a fan of literary fiction, this book should find a place in the pile of must-reads beside your bed.

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