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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

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THE POSTMISTRESS

By: Sarah Blake.

Publisher: Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, 326 pages, $25.95.

Review: This novel about two women -- a journalist and a postal worker -- vividly portrays America in the 1940s.

Female characters deliver

  • February 6, 2010 - 11:20 PM

Classified by some as a "romantic novel," Sarah Blake's "The Postmistress" undoubtedly rises to the more prestigious category of literary historical fiction. It vividly portrays the United States on the verge of World War II, London during the Blitz and Europe in the grip of the Nazis. Two memorable female characters take center stage. Iris James, a middle-aged but not unattractive single woman serves as postmistress of Franklin, Mass., a small resort town on Cape Cod. The other woman, Frankie Bard, is a beautiful and charming woman, a product of New York's high society now working in London as a radio journalist. Her boss is the legendary Edward R. Murrow. The depiction of Frankie's broadcasts from war-torn London is certainly one of the book's highlights.

Midway through the novel, Frankie travels to Europe to report on the horrific plight of the Jews. Daringly, with a primitive portable voice recorder, she rides the last refugee trains out of Germany. Because, in an exhausted state, she comes to believe that her attempts to inform the world of the Jewish Pogrom are futile, she resigns her position at CBS and returns to the United States.

The two plot strands come together when Frankie travels to Massachusetts to deliver a letter entrusted to her by an American man in a London bomb shelter. As events unfold, Frankie deliberately fails to deliver the letter. Similarly, Iris pockets a letter addressed to the same recipient, something the conscientious woman has never before done.

A better title for Blake's impressive novel might have been "The Broadcaster." In the end, it is to Frankie Bard that the story belongs.

KATHERINE BAILEY

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