Tag Archives: Sarah Blake

‘The Postmistress’ by Sarah Blake

This is a very beautifully written book. The story captivated me from the start and held me right through to the end. It is evocative, thought provoking, and unsentimental (despite the cover).

The characters will stay with me for a very long time and Cape Cod is an unusual setting from which to tell a World War II story. Parts of the story takes place in London as well, during the time when bombs rained on the city and all the people living there could do was “Keep Calm and Carry On” (see note below). It was a new reality in WW II that civilians would be victims of war. Today that is true even more than ever. Perhaps that is all that civilians really can do.

What if a letter that was written was never delivered? What might happen and what consequences might there be? And what if it was a postmaster who chose not to deliver the letter? That would complicate matters even more.

 Frankie Bard is an American war correspondent based in Europe. It is her voice that brings the war into the living rooms of Cape Cod, a whale tail flip of a place on the edge of the Eastern USA Coast.  Iris James is the postmistress living in Cape Cod. Her job is to deal daily with the mail. Both of these women’s work is bearing news, one in the form of stories to be told, the other in the form of letters to be sent and delivered.

Side Note:  Though I don’t remember if this poster is even actually mentioned  in this story, the scenes about the London bombings made me think about it, and wonder about its history.  It is literally all over the tourist town where I live, available on post cards, mugs, and coasters.  The poster is historical.  It was produced by the British government in 1939, and was intended to raise the morale of the British people during the war. However, it never caught on during that time, and was little known.  In 2000 it resurfaced as a retro British icon depicting  a certain British outlook or character of long suffering and a stiff upper lip: “tap(ping) directly into the country’s mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall” (Bagehot, The Economist). In the most recent context, it depicts the posture of a people struggling with economic woes and social struggles.