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CJINCA
Posts: 51
Registered: ‎11-28-2008

Re: Final Thoughts

 


Zia01 wrote:

I've been waiting for this thread for a long time because what I'm am getting ready to say has been bugging me since I read the book and there never has been a good spot to discuss it.

 

I would have enjoyed this book so much more if the jacket blurb and even the synopsis on this website, hadn't been so misleading.

 

Here's the B&N synopsis:

 

Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women-and of two countries torn apart by war.
On the eve of the United State's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter. (this doesn't even happen until Pg 243 in 1941 near the end of the book)In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape. (This makes it sound as if she is granting a dying wish from Will. Once you read the book this is found to be inaccurate.)
The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen. The Postmistress is an unforgettable tale of the secrets we must bear, or bury. It is about what happens to love during wartime, when those we cherish leave. And how every story-of love or war-is about looking left when we should have been looking right.

 

But what bugged me the most more than anything is the assumption the reader is led to believe about Iris taking the letter. The blurb and the jacket both make you think it's the main plot line of the book. In reality it is not. I spent the entire book looking for this letter and wondering what the heck it had to do with anything in the story. If I hadn't been given the wrong impression, I would have really enjoyed this book.

 

I thought I was being overly sensitive to it but a friend who also read for this book club felt the same exact thing. She kept waiting for the plot to happen.


 

 

I couldn't agree more.

 

I don't think this is just a marketing issue, since in the prologue, Frankie (now Frances) is telling a dinner party the long-ago story of the undelivered letter.  She implies that this undelivered letter is a turning point, that the course of a person's life could change because a letter was not delivered.

 

As it turns out, their failure to deliver their letters means nothing, there are no ramifications, nothing happens or fails to happen because of it.

 

So, I am not sure what is Frankie talking about in the prologue.  A corresponding epilogue with Frankie's thoughts about the story would have been nice symmetry, and given the author a good way to tie together the loose ends that make the story feel unfinished, and to make a little more explicit the messages she seemed to be trying to get to (maybe something about telling stories, untold stories, unfinished stories; maybe something about duty, and our professional vs personal responsibilities to one another).

 

For me, the book succeeds as a story exploring of the impact of war on the people at home.  But using "the undelivered letter" as a hook to bring the reader in to the story -- this was more of a distraction than anything else.

 

-- C.

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PiperMurphy
Posts: 174
Registered: ‎09-19-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts


Peppermill wrote:

..she opened it.  That was not only ethically and morally wrong, it was illegal.

 

I doubt any of us can deny that opening the landlady's letter was illegal on Iris's part.  But please do say some  more about what makes it (clearly) ethically and morally wrong to have opened the letter, if you would, Piper. 

 

Given that Will had given Iris a letter to be delivered on his death, and which charge she accepted, along with a less formal one to keep an eye on Emma, that second aspect is more ambiguous for me, even though I do think Emma would have been okay receiving the letter at once, at least in the long haul.  I also don't know what Iris would have or should have done about the letter Will left her if she had delivered the letter from the landlady (without opening it).  I suspect I lean towards the view that Iris should have continued to hold Will's letter until Emma received further information and confirmation of his death, either because of inquiries Emma might then have instigated, or because the news came as it did.

 

Anyway, what ifs are always what ifs.

 

Thanks, if you indulge me, and us.

 

Pepper


Thanks for your comments, Pepper. I probably look at this from a different perspective from others. My father retired from the Post Office, and I worked in the mailing industry for many years. So, I not only grew up in the post office, I worked within the rules, regulations, and ethics of the USPS in my job. My background influenced my thinking about Iris. She was a stickler for those rules and regulations until the landlady's letter arrived. Then she set them aside.

 

The letter that Will left with Iris before he left was a personal transaction between the two of them. It never entered the mailstream. However, the landlady's letter was part of the mailstream and was owned by the Post Office until it was delivered. It was ethically and morally wrong for Iris to withhold the letter because she broke postal rules. I think that she also violated her personal ethics by doing something against her own values and standards. She took pride in the way she did her job and maintained the post office. Opening the letter, also ethically wrong, is morally wrong because the letter was not addressed to her. The contents were none of her business, no matter what Will may have asked of her before he left. She didn't have the right to make a decisions for Emma.

 

Granted, she kept the letter to protect Emma and give her hope that Will was still alive, but since the letter only said that he was missing, there was still hope anyway. Plus, Iris received telegrams at the post office. She knew she would be the first to get any news when or if it came, but that would have been true whether she delivered the letter or not. She felt she was safe in keeping the letter, also morally questionable. She knew she was breaking the rules and she was thinking about consequences.

 

Iris wondered, as she was putting the letter in the draw, if she was stealing. Yes, she was, but she was stealing much more than a letter. She stole information about Emma's husband that prevented her from making any kind of an investigation that may have brought her the news sooner. She stole peace of mind because she caused Emma to come to her own conclusion about Will. And she stole her own values and integrity because no matter what she did, it was inevitable that word would come about Will. Breaking the rules didn't change the outcome, but it did cause some of the truth to be hidden. This is something that Iris will always have to live with. In the end, I couldn't justify Iris's actions.

 

 


 

"When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes."
~Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus~
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PiperMurphy
Posts: 174
Registered: ‎09-19-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts

[ Edited ]

I see that my reply got posted twice. I was having problems with error messages and my session timing out. I was getting very frustrated and didn't realize that my first post had actually worked. I apologize for the duplication.


Peppermill wrote:

..she opened it.  That was not only ethically and morally wrong, it was illegal.

 

I doubt any of us can deny that opening the landlady's letter was illegal on Iris's part.  But please do say some  more about what makes it (clearly) ethically and morally wrong to have opened the letter, if you would, Piper. 

 

Given that Will had given Iris a letter to be delivered on his death, and which charge she accepted, along with a less formal one to keep an eye on Emma, that second aspect is more ambiguous for me, even though I do think Emma would have been okay receiving the letter at once, at least in the long haul.  I also don't know what Iris would have or should have done about the letter Will left her if she had delivered the letter from the landlady (without opening it).  I suspect I lean towards the view that Iris should have continued to hold Will's letter until Emma received further information and confirmation of his death, either because of inquiries Emma might then have instigated, or because the news came as it did.

 

Anyway, what ifs are always what ifs.

 

Thanks, if you indulge me, and us.

 

Pepper


PiperMurphy wrote:

I have mixed feelings about The Postmistress. I thought Frankie was a fascinating character. Her reporting of the London Blitz and the refugee train was interesting, compelling, and heartbreaking. I would have loved to read a whole book about Frankie and Murrow reporting the war in Europe. Frankie's story was beautifully told.

 

Harry and Otto were my favorite characters even though they had a supporting role. Harry understood America's vulnerability to foreign invasion when everyone else thought it could never happen. He quietly went about safeguarding his town, but suffers a heart attack from the shock when a U Boat actually surfaces. I wish he had survived. I liked Otto for his dignity. He was separated from his family and alone in a country where people were suspicious of him. Yet he didn't feel the need to explain himself. He didn't need to.

 

Unfortunately, I have a problem with Iris. I felt that Iris withholding the letter from the landlady was out of character. I didn't find her reasoning believeable. She prided herself in following the rules and regulations of the Post Office, but she not only did not deliver the landlady's letter, she opened it. That was not only ethically and morally wrong, it was illegal. Then when the telegram arrived, she was off the hook. There were no consequences for her actions. She had a piece of Will's story that should have been Emma's, but Emma would never know.  Likewise, Frankie had a letter from Will that she chose to hand deliver, but found out when she got to Franklin that Emma had not been notified of his death. She has to make a decision whether to give Emma the letter and deliver the news herself, or keep it and not say anything. She is also saved by the arrival of the telegram, but she had a very interesting dilemma that could have been more explored.

 

I thought that The Postmistress captured the atmosphere of the war in Europe and pre-war America beautifully. I wish that the book had been more about the contrast between the two without the mystery of the letter.


 

 

 


 

Pepper, thanks for your comments. I probably look at this from a different perspective from others. My father retired from the post office, and I worked in the mailing industry for many years. So, I not only grew up in the post office, I worked within the rules, regulations, and ethics of the USPS in my job. I think that I let my background influence my thinking about Iris. She was a stickler about rules and regulations until the landlady's letter arrived.

 

The letter that Will left with Iris isn't an issue because it never entered the mailstream. However, the landlady's letter was part of the mailstream and was owned by the post office until it was delivered. Iris broke the rules when she withheld the letter going against the ethics and regulations of the post office. I think that she also went against her personal ethics because she took so much pride in her job and the way that she maintained the post office. Opening the letter was ethically and morally wrong because it wasn't addressed to her. Its contents were none of her business. And, she had no right to make decisions affecting someone elses life based on those contents.

 

Granted Will had asked Iris to look after Emma. She thought that she was protecting Emma and giving her hope that he was still alive, but the letter only said that he was missing. There was always hope until word arrived whether Emma had the letter or not. Plus, Iris received telegrams at the post office. She would have been the first to know either way. She thought that she was safe in withholding the letter because she would get the telegram. She thought she was safe. This thinking is also morally questionable because she knew she was breaking the rules and was thinking about the consequences.

 

Iris wonder, as she was putting the letter in the draw, it she was stealing. Yes, she was, but I think that she was stealing more that she realized. She stole information about Emma's husband that Emma had the right to know, and which prevented her from doing any kind of investigation that may have brought her word sooner. She stole peace of mind because she caused Emma to draw her own conclusions about what happened to Will. She stole her own ethics and integrity because she broke rules that she valued. Withholding the letter didn't change the inevitable notification of Will's death, and actually caused a piece of the truth to be forever hidden. No one benefited from Iris's actions. In the end, I have trouble justifying what she did.

"When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes."
~Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus~
Reader 2
autumnSC
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

Thank you for the opportunity to read this book before anyone else.  It took me longer than usual to "get into" the book, but once I did, I was hooked.  The author made me feel as though I was watching a movie with her rich descriptions.  I enjoyed the book overall, although I do agree that it did not have much to do with what was represented on the jacket.  I would recommend it to someone interested in novels set during the war. 

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cocospals
Posts: 115
Registered: ‎12-25-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

Although I had trouble finding the time to post due to work and school, I did read the entire book. I am not normally drawn to novels with a historical background but this one reached out and gripped me and did not let go. The characters were so real. I felt as though I was watching Frankie interviewing the people of the train from a seat nearby on the train.

 

Another great choice by Barnes and Noble!

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there - John Wooden
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rla8180
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎07-17-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book, although like many other readers, I was anxiously awaiting the "undelivered letter scene"  and was a little disappointed with the way it was handled.  In the early chapters, I was very curious to see how the author would link the three women together and she did so in a very poignant manner.  I could relate to Emma and Frankie, but somehow, Iris, who should have been the primary character, never really came to life for me. 

 

Will's anguish and feelings of inadequacy when Maggie died impressed me deeply, but that didn't come close to the scenes on the train.  The story of Thomas being killed as a result of Frankie's actions and the mother sending her son away are two images that I carry with me as a result of Sarah Blake's excellent writing.

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BooksRPam
Posts: 39
Registered: ‎12-05-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts

I think you summed it up very well.  As I got farther into the book, I stopped posting because I wouldn't want to read a lot of negativity if I were the author.  While the book was an easy read, it failed to deliver the "punch" I kept expecting.  It was a nice novel about several individuals, but I never really connected to the characters as I had hoped.  Not only, as you so well described, was the letter anticlimactic, but I'm not even sure I would have entitled the book THE POSTMISTRESS.  There were so many plot lines that I did not see Iris as specifically the character that the story evolved around.

 


Zia01 wrote:

I've been waiting for this thread for a long time because what I'm am getting ready to say has been bugging me since I read the book and there never has been a good spot to discuss it.

 

I would have enjoyed this book so much more if the jacket blurb and even the synopsis on this website, hadn't been so misleading.

 

Here's the B&N synopsis:

 

Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women-and of two countries torn apart by war.
On the eve of the United State's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter. (this doesn't even happen until Pg 243 in 1941 near the end of the book)In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape. (This makes it sound as if she is granting a dying wish from Will. Once you read the book this is found to be inaccurate.)
The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen. The Postmistress is an unforgettable tale of the secrets we must bear, or bury. It is about what happens to love during wartime, when those we cherish leave. And how every story-of love or war-is about looking left when we should have been looking right.

 

But what bugged me the most more than anything is the assumption the reader is led to believe about Iris taking the letter. The blurb and the jacket both make you think it's the main plot line of the book. In reality it is not. I spent the entire book looking for this letter and wondering what the heck it had to do with anything in the story. If I hadn't been given the wrong impression, I would have really enjoyed this book.

 

I thought I was being overly sensitive to it but a friend who also read for this book club felt the same exact thing. She kept waiting for the plot to happen.


 

Pam
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learningdragon
Posts: 71
Registered: ‎02-03-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

While I did enjoy the book, I must admit that I was disappointed. I really liked the cover art, I've bought many books based on the cover, only to get it home and not enjoy the book, or take a few years to read it, because I paid for it and didn't want to waste my money. I am not a big fan of WWII stories, and I agree with several posts concerning the misleading idea of Iris and the letter, I do look forward to the next First Look selection, and wish the author much success with this novel and her next effort. 

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mgorbatjuk
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎04-12-2008

Re: Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the book and learned a lot not only from the book but the posts from other readers. Maybe with all the opinions about the book jacket and what the book is about the publisher's will change it. I think I probably learned more during this discussion than I have in any other that I've been a part of.

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Bluemoon147
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎06-20-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I am glad someone else felt this way.  I thought I missed something while I was reading.  I kept re-reading parts thinking I wasn't getting the true meaning.

 

I have to agree, if there wasn't anything on the jacket I may have enjoyed it more and maybe would have seen a different story.

 

Thanks

 

Bluemoon147

 

 

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fronkster
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎08-13-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I liked the book, but I have to agree with not liking the synopsis. It confused me for the longest time because I thought they had the wrong synopsis for the book, except all the names were right. But besides that it was a good book. 

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Linds84
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

This is just such a beautiful book. Definitely in my top 10 of 2009. The final scene will stick with me, along with the amazing characters. I can't wait to recommend this to all my friends and family!

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loves2read_MA
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎12-12-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

The book was good read however I enjoyed the Frankie story more than the Iris story and I'm not sure I agree with the title.   I had really hoped Emma would start to get her act together by the end of the book and maybe she would have if she received the letter and had some closure.  I agree it would make a good movie.

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goingeast
Posts: 89
Registered: ‎01-03-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

yes Debbie, I agree with you.  The scene on the train was heartbreaking.  I will never forget it either.  Having a son, it made it all the worse.

 

Ann

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BooksOnTheKnob
Posts: 201
Registered: ‎09-03-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I've really been enjoying the book, although my participation in the forum has been mainly limited to reading others comments (and that, limited simply due to time restraints, as it cuts into actual reading time).

Karen
Books on the Knob
http://blog.booksontheknob.org
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pmldwnlln
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I'm afraid that my final thoughts will be an echo of many others.  While I enjoyed the imagery created by the author in this book, I feel that the book did not live up to its bill.  We are presented at the beginning of this story with such a big question about a postmaster and end up reading a book not at all centered around the postmaster.  This book ends up not about how a postmaster can alter the fabric of someone's life but about multiple people and their views on truth and reality.  Frankie was much more the main character of the story, intriguing in her own story, but this concept of the postmistress, her ability to alter lives, and her in-depth knowledge about her community was so interesting and ended up lost in everything else.  The book was enjoyable enough to read, but overwrought with storylines and characters.  Could have been a series of books about the same event in different perspectives.

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fordmg
Posts: 546
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I have enjoyed reading this book, and I appreciate the First Look opportunities that B&N have given us over the years.  I had a little trouble getting into the book in the beginning, but the middle section really grabbed me.  I could relate to Frankie.  I think she was trying to tell a story and she knew no one would believe.  Then when she got back to the US she was in such shock from her European adventure, that she had trouble relating to reality.  I think this was really Frankie's story not the Postmistress. 

I didn't feel for Iris until the end when Harry died.  I could understand her frustration and why she chopped down the flag pole.  This story stays with me for a while after finishing. 

MG

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grammydee
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-03-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

In the end I must say I did enjoy the book-sneaking way beyond what I was supposed to of course. 

I agree with many others that the story was not about the Postmistress and the title and synopsis were misleading. The story was more centered on Frankie for me,her exploits of traveling in such uneasy times and the way she got terrified people to speak with her. 

Definitely a worthwhile read!

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BOOKWORM1414
Posts: 37
Registered: ‎09-03-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

 

This is my first experience taking part in an online book club.

 

I was excited when THE POSTMISTRESS arrived in the mail. The presentation of the cover helped to draw one inside.

 

I was immediately engulfed in the storyline.  I felt like I was truly one of the characters, looking on was the story unfolded.

 

I am hoping that there may be a sequel awaiting in the wings, as there are many unanswered questions.

 

I commend Ms Blake on her novel and can not wait to read her next adventure.

 

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

 

I am looking forward to First LOOK'S next selection.

 

 

Carol Ann

 

 

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shannonbh
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎09-20-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts

I guess I feel differently than several of the posters here.  The blurb did not detract from my ability to enjoy the novel.  True, the blurb pulled me in.  But I think this book is not about plot - the story told here is in the characters.  I absolutely love the idea of story as truth - and in this case, I don't believe the plot was the point.  The story was about these characters, and how they are dealing with the reality that war is here (Frankie), was is coming (Americans).  That this story is happening to all of us...and how will it change us, make us do things we never thought we would (ie. Iris with the letter), make us bolder, or fearful, or sick, or strong.  The beauty in this novel, and in the truth that was told, is that we can learn that we don't know what we are capable of, we don't know how we will behave - we are not predictable creatures when it comes to war.  War creates chaos, and that chaos extends to our own behavior, whether we are directly affected/involved or not.  Thank you for a wonderful read Sarah, and a terrific opportunity B & N!