This is the kind of book you had better read now, because among other things, it is about the post office, and delivering mail, and the writing and receiving of letters. When was the last time you had a paper letter from someone? Do you still get a lot of mail? Email is taking over, and soon, our little children will be saying, “Mumsy, what is a post office?”
It is set at the beginning of World War II. the war to end all wars. Oh, wait, no. That was World War I, which obviously did not end all wars. There are currently something like 134 major ‘conflicts’ happening throughout the world. Might be more, hard to get a good count. There are 15 big hot spots. But, yeah, back to 1940, the German nightly bombing of London has begun, and a young reporter, Frankie Bard, is sent to London to work with Ed Morrow, reporting nightly on the radio of what she sees going on in London.
Meanwhile, a sweet young woman marries a young doctor, and they move to his hometown, a small place on Cape Cod, where he tries to make up for the drunken mistakes of his doctor father. Iris is appointed the new Postmaster for the town, and so begins the disparate threads that will come together in an unexpected way.
Frankie records a nightly broadcast from London about the blitz and the daily experiences there. She tells of her meeting up with a little guy in a shelter, and taking him home to his apartment only to find that the building has been pretty much demolished, killing his mother, and Frankie’s roommate journalist. Hearing this broadcast, the doctor, after unsuccessfully attending a woman giving birth to her fifth or sixth child, but who dies in childbirth, probably due to his reluctance to call in more experienced help, decides to go to London to help out, thereby running away from his problems, and leaving his new bride to cope on her own.
Frankie has a reporter friend who is very concerned about the plight of the Jews in Germany and other European countries, and Frankie is sent on a trip through Germany by train to garner local color. What she finds are massive crowds of Jewish people fleeing for their lives, the cruelty of the German soldiers, and the reality of war. In a coincidence found only in novels, Frankie meets that Cape Cod doctor husband in a bomb shelter, he gives her a letter to send to his wife in case of his demise, and she then watches later as he steps off a curb into the path of an oncoming vehicle and is killed.
After her trip through Germany, she is shattered, and goes back to New York, where she decides to go to that small Cape Cod town to deliver the letter in person, and it is there that the lives of the Postmaster, Frankie and the doctor’s wife all come together.
So there is a lot about the run up to the Holocaust, about fear of Germans in the US, about the fear of German submarines attacking the coast.
The title of the book comes not only from the Postmaster Iris, but during a conversation between Iris and Frankie, Frankie refers to Iris as the postmistress, to which Iris huffily replies that she was the postMASTER. The US does not have the title of postmistress, that was a British thing.
Good read, I guess something of women’s fiction, as it had mainly to do with the three women.