The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: WWII beginning, Jewish refugees, US preparedness, London Blitz
Setting: Europe pre-WWII, Franklin Massachusetts
Main Characters: Frankie Bard, Will Fitch, Emma Fitch, Harry Vale, Iris James
Series: no
Dates Read: April 24 - May 8
Number of pages: 322
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: yes, loaned from Tina
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: Extra curricular activites

This story had three central figures - all female - Frankie Bard, a news reporter, Emma Fitch, wife of the town doctor, and Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts. Even though the title of the book points to Iris as the lead, IMHO, the book is more about Frankie and her reports of the coming of World War II and how events can effect people differently.

Emma is a new bride brought by Will Fitch to his hometown of Franklin MA where he is going to setup his practice. Emma is a very insecure young woman who is fearful of being alone. When Will loses a patient he decides that he needs to do something more worthwhile and heads to London in 1940 to offer his services to the English. Every day he sends a letter back to Emma who grows more frightened as the time grows longer that Will is away.

Frankie Bard works with Edward R Murrow at the BBC broadcasting the news back to the States. She tells human interest stories such as a small boy that she encountered during one night of the Blitz and wen she walked him home, they found the house had been hit by a bomb. Her account was heard by Emma and Iris in Franklin and they were touched by her story.

Their lives come together when Frankie is caught in the underground during a nightly attack and is seated next to Will Fitch. They talk and when they leave in the morning, Frankie watches as Will is hit by a car and he dies in her arms. She picks up the letter that he was going to mail home and she carries it with her the next few months, never sure whether she should mail it or not.

Immediately after Will's death, Frankie is told that she can go on assignment to Germany, France, Belgium to see what is happening with the exodus of the European Jews and to interview them. The ensuing accounts are riveting.

Returning Frankie appears to have shellshock from the experiences and since she still holds the letter she goes to Franklin for R&R where she meets Emma and Iris and the other residents of the town who are unsure of whether there is anything that they need to be concerned about. Frankie seem very true to life - wondering what happened to the people that she had met along the way however, no effort was made to try to resolve that lack of information.

Not having lived at the time that this story is set, I was moved by Frankie's accounts but also found it hard to believe that in actuality, the Americans did not seem to really care what was happened in Europe since we were not involved in the war at this time. Even today we seem to have that same blind eye that is turned to horrors in other nations until we can't not see it.

I thought we were supposed to learn from history.

Thanks to Tina for the loan of the book and Stasia for the recommendation.

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