The Postmistress takes place between 1940 and 1941 at the beginning of the Second World War, in both Europe and in the small town of Franklin Massachusetts on Cape Cod. This is a solid war story told from the perspective of three very different women whose lives are directly affected by the War. First there is Iris James, a 40-year old postmaster who is new to Franklin. Iris prides herself on maintaining the order of the town and whose job it is to sort and process all of the incoming and outgoing mail, which is a huge responsibility. Iris is a devoted, by-the-book postmaster until she does the unthinkable—she pockets a letter destined for town. Next there is the young Mrs. Emma Fitch, the new wife of the town doctor. Emma is young, quite and naïve who has lived a tough life. She was orphaned as a young girl when her family died in the epidemic of 1918 and she was sent to live with her aunt. Emma is desperate to be loved and to have someone watching over her as a parent would and she finds this in Doctor Fitch. Finally there is Frankie Bard, a fiercely independent and educated “Radio-gal” from New York who chose to go overseas to bring the reality of war back home. Frankie ends up in London giving firsthand accounts from the front lines of war, literally with bombs bursting overhead, about the life in London during the Blitz. Frankie is then determined to find the big story of the war and travels to the Continent and into occupied France where she gives a voice to the people there who are trying to escape the horrors of war. Frankie wants to bring the story home to Americans—she tries to get them to pay attention and to realize that the War is not as far away from them as they think.
There has been a lot of hype about this novel and it has been sitting on my TBR list for what seems like forever. I was shopping at my local Walmart and I found a copy of the book with a big, red 40% off sticker on it and I could not resist picking it up. I have to say, there was no buyers remorse when it came to this novel.
I very much enjoyed how the stories of each of the three women danced around and intertwined with each other throughout the novel however each of the individual stories could have stood on their own. The characters felt real—you could feel their pain, their hope, their sorrow—they could have been real women who lived these lives during the tumultuous time of war. I found that while Emma’s and Iris’ stories were great, they paled in comparison to that of Frankie Bard. I found Frankie’s story to be exciting—it tugged on the heart-strings and played on the emotions, but yet it was informative about the lives of those who live it. I think that this could have been achieved with both Iris’ and Emma’s stories by exploring their back stories more in-depth than just the glimpses the reader was given. Again, each of the characters were relatable and realistic, especially Frankie. My only major criticism of the novel was that I was very disappointed in the ending; the story just stopped. We are left hanging, wondering what happens to the characters with no insight into the future.
I was fascinated by the power of communication in this novel. The power of a single letter or a 3 minute radio broadcast is unimaginable in our world today. The story takes place in a much simpler time, most unlike the world we live in today; a world of instant gratification. News is available at our fingertips, at the touch of a button, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I cannot imagine living in a world where news could take up to 2 weeks for a letter to cross the Atlantic containing news of your loved ones well being.
The rich and descriptive language of the novel brings the story to life; creating vivid images of what the characters themselves were seeing and experiencing. This is a timeless story of people living in a catastrophic world in the middle of a worldwide War and who are living with the uncertainty of the future.