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The Postmistress is a novel of if. “If I tell this story in exactly the right way, people will hear it and act on it,” thinks the reporter. “If I don’t make mistakes, the system will be perfect and chaos and random chance will be kept at bay,” thinks the postmistress. “If I think hard enough about my husband being safe, he will be,” thinks the woman left at home as her husband goes off to London during the Blitz. But if is a double-edged word and sometimes it falls the other way, and we’re left thinking, “If only I had done this or hadn’t done that, then this other thing would never have happened.”
Beautiful. I opened this novel, already in love with the cover, and fell in love with the writing contained within. It’s not a beauty that keeps you at arm’s distance. It’s a beauty that seductively whispers, “Come closer. Read what I have to say. See what I’m showing you.” And then it shows you the chaos of war, and how helpless we are before it. It shows you how it’s human nature to avoid seeing what we don’t want to see, or to avoid acting when it’s easier to stay safely at home with our heads in the sand.
Haunting. I am going to be haunted by Frankie’s story for a long time. I should perhaps relate more to the wife than the reporter, but Frankie’s stories have left a mark on my soul. She’s in London, and then she’s in Europe in the refugee trains, and all the time she is beating against the world’s indifference, shouting, “This is happening, and it’s happening in numbers you can’t imagine. And it’s getting worse every day. Pay attention! Please, just pay attention.” And the world doesn’t pay attention, and the horror worsens.
Read it. It’s not always easy; war stories never are. But we still have a duty to pay attention, even–or perhaps especially–to the past.
If you liked The Postmistress, you might also like my reviews of
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- Letters From Home by Kristina McMorris
- Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
Buy The Postmistress from Malaprop’s Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC or