Book Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

by Jenn (eating bender) on November 17, 2011

Imagine having responsibility over everyone’s secrets. It’s your job to get letters, bills and personal information from point A to point B with little or no room for error. It’s a big job, and you love it, until one day a letter comes along that you can’t avoid opening. And once you do, you find yourself unable to pass it along. So you pocket it.

That’s the initial idea behind Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress. A thrilling, historical read.

In Short

While reading this book, I felt as though I had truly gone back in time to the World War II era. The details are historically accurate, but more importantly, the emotions are, too. You could really get a sense for the difference between the two worlds Sarah Blake created – the reality and horror of living in London during the Blitzkrieg and the naivete of living in America and thinking the war “over there” could not affect us. Pick up this book if you’re interested in learning a new perspective of what it was like to live during this time combined with an interesting plot line – the idea that someone from the post office would purposely prevent a letter from reaching its intended receiver.

The Details

Blake tells her story from the perspective of three women: Iris (the “postmistress”), Emma and Frankie. Iris and Emma live in a fictional small Massachusetts town along the coast called Franklin. Frankie is a journalist working over in London for Edward Murrow.

This is a story of love, loss and courage. It is also a story that shows the strength of women during this time period. It was rare to have a female postmaster or a journalist overseas working for someone as popular as Murrow – he was on the radio during the Blitz and television during the McCarthy era, which you might remember from the movie Good Night, and Good Luck with George Clooney. But it happened, they existed, and this book does an excellent job of describing what life was like for a career woman in the midst of war.

Iris and Frankie are both connected by the third story, Emma’s, which tells of her love for her new husband, the Franklin town doctor Will Fitch. A series of events ultimately sends Will across the ocean, and the plot takes off from there.

The writing is beautiful and poetic at times, and the plots interact with one another seamlessly. I was eager to turn every page! That said, I do have to admit to wanting a little more from the ending. It was well done, but there were certain details that felt a little too convenient. I say that with a grain of salt, however, because what felt unsettled for me might be a perfect ending for you. You won’t know until you read it – and I highly recommend that you do!


Have you read The Postmistress? Or have a favorite book from the WWII era?

Can’t believe Thursday is already here! Looking forward to a relaxing weekend and hope you are, too!


1 Cara (Twinthusiast) November 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Just requested this from the library. Another great WWII book is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – long title I know but a lovely read.

2 Jenn (eating bender) November 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

That’s great to know – thanks, Cara!

3 Melissa @TryingtoHeal November 18, 2011 at 9:31 am

Whoa, I need to get that book! I’m immediately adding it to my wishlist on my Kindle!!!

4 Jenn (eating bender) November 18, 2011 at 10:14 am

Do it! You won’t be disappointed. :)

5 Em Marie November 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

I haven’t read that book yet but I recently read “Next to Love” and enjoyed it!

6 Jenn (eating bender) November 18, 2011 at 10:14 am

Awesome! Thanks for the recommendation – and the link! :)

7 lifeslayercake November 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Just finished the book this summer while traveling and definitely left it in the hostel we were staying in, because I absolutely thought that it deserved a second read. I totally agree with your comments, and give you a literary fist pump for wanting more from the ending–it needed so much more!

8 Karen February 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm

This book was given to me for Christmas and I wanted to like it; however, I found it painfully tedious and forced. Moreover, there were some historical bloopers early on that thinned out my enthusiasm for continuing, yet I did because it was a book club selection.

She obviously has writing skill–there are some lovely passages, but I found that each sentence was crafted for poignancy, not for storytelling. The constant telling instead of showing smacked of the “enlightened one” whose message is constantly being hammered as I-need-to-teach-the-world-that-war-is-hell.

I enjoy a novel that allows me to see the messages and themes through the story itself, Writing a good novel is hard.


9 Jenn (eating bender) February 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I so appreciated your honest review, Karen. It’s really interesting to hear your perspective on passages being crafted for poignancy rather than storytelling. One of the things I personally struggle with as a writer is finding that balance between showing rather than telling. Thank you for the great reminder as to how crucial this is in keeping the reader’s interest. Out of curiosity, what historical bloopers did you notice early on?

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