The Postmistress

Friday, May 14, 2010

Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Pages: 326 pages
Genre: Historical fiction; women's fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn (Putnam Sons/Penguin Group)
Release Date: February 9, 2010

Okay, the buzz for this book seemed to generate long before it came out. I read various reviews for this book; some loved this book, but some readers were disappointed. Turns out I may have chosen the wrong time to read this. I was on vacation, and though it seemed like I had plenty of reading time, the truth was I was constantly on the go. The tone of this book was heavy and just didn't go well with the mood I was in and the mini reading sessions I was able to squeeze in. My thoughts about this book are sort of confused; it was well written, I can see why some people liked it, but I just didn't care for it. And I can't quite figure out what would have made it better for me.

The Postmistress is about 3 women during the 1940's before Pearl Harbor or the U.S. entering the war. Frankie Bard is one of those exceptionally (especially for the time) independent and ambitious women. She decides to go to Europe to broadcast the war over the radio. She can't fathom knowing there is a war going on across the ocean and, yet, Americans are living their lives without a care in the world. Despite being unconventional for a woman, Frankie reports literally from the front line, bombs exploding overhead. The other two characters listen to Frankie from their radios in Massachusetts: Iris James is the town's new (and first female) postmaster. It's her job to process all the incoming and outgoing mail which in that day in time gives her an enormous responsibility. Emma Fitch is the wife of the town doctor, and she appears naive and quiet to the rest of the town. All three of these women will inextricably be connected by the end of the book.

Like I said, I can see why some people liked this book, but for me it was just 'eh'. First off, I felt a real disconnect from the characters. Some books make me feel like I know the characters, and this just made me feel like I was reading about them. Maybe this sense of disconnect was from my being "on the go" with little reading time? I'm not sure. It also didn't help that the overall mood of the book was depressing and heavy. I found little about it uplifting. I get that the point of the book was the irony in that atrocious events were happening in one part of the world while the other part of the world was living normal lives. But at times I felt like, for me, it was a little too preachy. I had difficulty finding any other themes in the book.

Two other things bothered me: I had difficulty understanding everything about the postmaster's job. There were lots of descriptions about using the "canceling machine" and whatnot, and I couldn't for the life of me picture it. The other thing was there were a few instances where the narrator would all of a sudden speak directly (in second person) to the reader. See, the very beginning of the book opens up with a woman talking to guests at a dinner party.. she asks a question that leads into the story of The Postmistress. This didn't work for me, though I liked the style at first, because it never returns to this scene. Even though she started the narration off, it wasn't obviously continued so when the narrative turned to second person I got so confused!

Now, it sounds like I had a lot of bad things to say about this book. I do feel torn saying anything bad because in some sense this book was powerful and important. There have been times when I've wondered how people could know of something awful happening on the other side of the world (especially during the holacaust) and live such normal lives without helping. (I do realize this kind of thing is happening all the time). The topic was important, and the author is a good writer. I just didn't find myself nearly as enthralled with this as I'd hoped to be.


Tina said...

I didnt like this one...I got half way through and gave just fell flat for me.

Juju at Tales of said...

Thank you for your honest review.

Juju at Tales of said...

Sounds like it would make a good film.

Zibilee said...

Lately, the reviews I have been reading on this book have been more negative than positive. I can totally understand where you are coming from, and it seems like you had some pretty solid and concrete reasons for not liking the book. I think that I am going to be moving this one down on the wish list after reading so many tepid reviews of it. Thanks for your honesty!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

You're right that you really have to be in the mood to read this one. Thanks for the great review.

Kari said...

Wow, I completely missed the whole beginning scene. Don't remember that one at all.

The only character I felt connected to was Frankie. The other two I found too annoying in some way.

Melissa said...

This was the first book I bought on my kindle. :( I'm still going to give it a try, but wait till i'm in the mood to tackle it. said...

This sounds like an interesting setting and a thought provoking premise, but I have difficulty appreciating a novel when the characters don't feel real to me. Thank you for the honest, balanced review.

Emidy said...

I agree with you - Blake's writing is fantastic but I found the actual story to be confusing and dry at times. Great, fair review!

bookmagic said...

This seems to have been hit or miss for alot of people. I loved it but my cousin did not like it at all.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I've actually read more reviews that are similar to yours. It has a lot going for it, strong story line, relatively good writing skill, beautiful cover but it falls short.

I was initially excited about it but because of the reviews I've read, I'm not adding to my list.

Thanks for your honesty.

Jenny said...

Tina -- I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Juju -- I was actually sort of thinking that when I read it, lol... it may have played out better on film

Heather -- It's crazy how this one has such different opinions!

Laurel -- yeah definitely wrong time to read it haha

Kari -- LOL go back and read it.. it's like the first page!

Melissa -- well, some people really liked it.. =/

Stephanie -- yeah... it was strange how I just felt so distant from the characters

Emidy -- I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that!

Mary -- you're right though, a lot of people liked it too!

Michelle -- yeah, I would focus on something else unless you're reallly in the mood for that topic

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