July 16, 2010

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

The Postmistress is the book I chose for our Book Club this month and I honestly don't know what reaction/s I am going to get at our discussion next week.

I find it a big responsibility to chose a book for a wide range of people to read - the pressure is on to find something that (hopefully) everyone will enjoy or get something out of in some way. Another consideration was that a condition of our Book Club selection is that the book has to be readily available in our shops - easy to access is a big plus. With those things in mind I chose The Postmistress because it was a fairly new release and it was a book that although I was hearing mixed things about I thought the premise sounded like a story most people could get into in some way - and I was hoping it was a book I would enjoy!

The Postmistress is set during the time of World War 2 just prior to the Americans becoming involved in an active way. In the small Cape Cod town of Franklin we are introduced to Iris James, the local postmistress who at the beginning of the book is on a day trip to Boston for an appointment with a doctor to have her virginity certified - an hilarious and telling opening scene in terms of characterisation. We are also introduced to the young wife who has newly married the doctor in Franklin - Emma Fitch - who comes into contact with Iris on the bus ride back from Boston.

The other main character in the book is Frankie Bard - a female American journalist who is currently in London reporting back on the bombing taking place in the city. It's difficult to see how it will happen but the lives of these three women are brought into contact with each other and it is this contact that plays out one of the major themes in the novel.

After having finished the book earlier this week I find that I am still pondering it and trying to work out what I actually think of it. Ultimately I think it is a well written book with a good backbone - I think the number of characters and the way the story jumped from settings was a little disconcerting for me though. I found myself wanting to stay with Frankie's story in London and Europe more than I wanted to be taken back to Cape Cod. I felt this way even more when I read the author's notes at the end of the book titled "The Story Behind The Story" which describes how she first came up with the idea for the book and the research she did around female journalists and reporters during World War 2.

So, I will see what my Book Club think of this one next week. It was an enjoyable read for me but one that I think will grow on me more after I have heard what others think.


verity said...

I like the sound of this one - I like WW2 books, but not come across this. Will be interested to see what your club made of it.

Unknown said...

I'm intrigued by the mixed reviews on this one. I think I'll get round to it at some point.

Kristin said...

I enjoyed this book but agree that it grows on you especially after hearing other's thoughts.

I find the same pressures when I have to pick a book for my book club, especially since there are such a wide array of interests/backgrounds within my bookclub.

Frances said...

It is so difficult to please everyone, right? I think my of my book clubs actually disbanded because we never picked a book that mostly everyone enjoyed. And so many unfinished reads. I embrace diversity on all levels ... except maybe book clubs. :) Like minds can go a long way sometimes.

Nadia said...

I have been wanting to read this book and have it on my TBR list. It just sounds like such a fascinating read. And I understand what you mean about it growing on you - I had that experience with Murakami's After Dark. I think it'll be interesting for you and your book club to discuss it. Great post!

Steph said...

I read this one a while back and liked it a good deal, even though it's not the kind of book I would normally go for. I thought the writing was really strong and very tender, which is what made the book so special for me, I suppose. I agree that the way it's written can be a bit discombobulating, but I've always enjoyed novels with non-traditional structures, so it worked for me.

Marg said...

I liked this one a lot when I read it a while ago, and think it would make for an interesting discussion.

The part of the novel that touched me the most was definitely Frankie's story. Her train trip was so moving.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I love the setting and idea for this novel, and of course, I'm in love with the cover. I've also seen a wide range of opinions on this, so I might just take a stab at it to check it out. I can't imagine the pressure of picking a novel for a book club, I'd probably agonize way too long and someone else would have to pick it for me! :)

Danielle said...

I felt much the way you did. I was so looking forward to this and got it from the library right when it came out, but after reading it was uncertain what to think. I liked it, but didn't love it, though it seemed like the potential was there. The European plot seemed to be much stronger, but something in the story was lacking and I'm just not sure what it was. I think I was expecting more from the Iris--since the novel was about The Postmistress--but somehow that part of the story seemed to sag. Not sure. But I think you'll have a good discussion and I think a lot of people did read it and enjoy it, so I wouldn't worry too much about the other readers being really disappointed. I always worried about picking book club books, too!

Karen said...

Hi Verity - I'm looking forward to our discussion tomorrow. I really enjoy books/novels about WW2 too.

Hi Jackie - I would really love to know what you make of this one...

Hi Kristin - It's such a big pressure isn't it? I guess you just have to follow the "you can't please everyone all of the time" mantra!

Hi Frances - I think that is so true - I really like hearing different opinions and thoughts are books but at the core I really like to connect with others who have similar reading tastes to me.

Hi Nadia - I'm not usually good with books that have to grow on me - they confuse me!! I am so used to having strong opinions about my reading first off!

Hi Steph - I totally agree with you on thr writing in this one - I would definitely pick up the next book by this author for that alone.

Hi Marg - the train trip was incredible wasn't it? I think the whole book could have focused on that and I would have been happy!

Hi Coffee - definitely check it out - I think even if you didn't totally love the book you would get something out of reading it if that makes sense??

Hi Danielle - I agree about the role Iris played in the book given the title too. I was wondering if somehow Frankie could be seen as a Postmistress as she was delivering news of a kind???

Read the Book said...

Thanks for this review. The Postmistress didn't quite live up to the hype for me, but I hope it presents a lively bookclub discussion! The whole set-up of how the characters became connected and eventually met (especially in England) all seemed a bit forced to me.

I actually just reviewed this in conjunction with another book if you want to check it out.

Mrs. Fry said...

I thought it was going to be different. Although I loved the opening of the book, I felt it dragged through, but ultimately, I did like it. It was well written.

I don't like to recommend books either because there is always someone who has too much negative to say.

Hope they like it.