Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

In The Postmistress, Sarah Blake contrasts the life of wartime radio journalist Frankie Bard, broadcasting live from London in 1941, with the peacetime lives of several of her listeners, residents of a small town in New England. Blake’s goal is to remind us how the horrors of war can go on just out of sight, just beyond our borders, and how difficult it is for people in each environment to understand the experiences of others. Frankie sees unimaginable horrors; Iris (the Postmistress) and her fellow Americans, not yet at war, are deeply disturbed by Frankie’s broadcasts. Frankie can’t imagine why no one is acting, why Americans aren’t getting involved; some of her listeners just wish she would tone it down a bit.

How do I know this was Blake’s point? Well first, because Blake is a good writer and I’m a good reader, so through the miracle of fiction, I picked up her message. But in case that didn’t work, the book contains an odd afterward, written by Blake, where she tells us that this was her point. I am mystified as to why the publishers thought this essay was necessary. Must authors now include these sorts of crib sheets, in case the reader is out to lunch? Blake also uses the essay to explain a historical shortcut – Frankie uses a kind of recording device in 1941 that wasn’t actually available until 1944 – who cares? But I guess some people might. I was mildly interested in the information she included about Edward R. Murrow and the few women radio journalists working at the time, so I guess the essay wasn’t a total waste.

Finally! I finished a book! A lot of people responded to my last post about not being able to sustain an interest in anything; apparently this condition is going around. I am half way through The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and then it’s back to Bring Up the Bodies. I’ve got a couple of things queued up that sound good too, so maybe I’m getting back on track….jinx.

(Book 27, 2012)


Shelley said...

I think you've accurately picked up on something here. As a writer, I think you're right that the peculiar post-comment added on to the book sounds like something the publisher demanded the writer do.

But readers are smarter than that.

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