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skiibunny1213
Posts: 39
Registered: ‎03-16-2009

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

I am having a hard time understanding the overarching message the author is trying to convey in this book.  After ruminating on it some I have come up with the following disjointed ideas/conclusions.  Any help making sense of it all would be greatly appreciated!!!

 

The book juxtaposes War (Chaos) vs. (Inner) Peace.  In Europe we see war: London under heavy bombings, people dying, Jews running from their homelands to anywhere that will provide them peace, amnesty.  In America we see the opposite.  A small Cape town - the epitome of solitude and peacefulness.  Into the lives of everyone: Frankie, Will, Emma, Henry, Iris - we see both peace come and also the chaotic senselessness of life and death.  Frankie loses her friend, witnesses strangers die, and experiences war and chaos so closely that it changes her to the very core.  She finds peace at the Cape, in the most unexpected of places- the place she was led to by the death of Will Fitch.  Emma experiences a childhood full of chaos and senseless death and loss, then finds peace in the love she has with Will.  Ironically, Will starts out more peacefully and finds that he cannot deal with the senselessness of Maggie's death and the story of the little boy, and feels he must in some way help.  His decision changes Emma's peaceful world into one of torment and waiting, and eventually grief in dealing with his senseless death.  Iris and Henry both find peace in their love for each other, but when the letter comes telling of Will’s disappearance, Iris finds that she cannot allow the system to move flawlessly on…she takes the letter out of circulation, against everything she had stood for, in order to protect Emma.  Henry waits for war.  He knows that peace is not everlasting and keeps his eye to the shore so as to warn his community of impending doom.

 

Will's death seems to be the event/catalyst that changes the lives of all the characters involved.  Will and Emma’s story, coupled with Frankie’s train rides across Europe, really brought home for me the anchors of life: family and death.  There are only a few sureties in this life… you will die, and those you loved and left behind will miss you when you go.

 

The idea of "story" in this book is very interesting.  Frankie’s job is to tell the stories of war to those back home.  Those at home listen to Frankie’s stories and are deeply affected by them.  However, these stories are the experiences of real people, and by sharing them, the stories (these people’s experiences) change the lives of those who hear them.  In the end, we are the storymakers, not just storytellers.  And because we do not live in bubbles, the experiences of others affect our own experience as well.  Most importantly, as Blake points out in the book (I think Iris tells the story of the black and white sails to demonstrate this point), it is our mistakes that make our stories more interesting… and what affects the lives of those around us.  Each person in this book made a mistake, and by doing so inextricably intertwined themselves and their experiences with other people.  It is what makes life interesting and unpredictable.

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Bonnie_C
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎08-07-2009

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

Iris is a soul who is driven by many directives.  She is a government branded rule follower.  The way she carries out her duties and the orderliness of the post office attest to this.  She also believes that God is behind her.  In chapter 6, she said to Harry that the reason she was good at what she did was because God was behind her.  "Every time I catch a mistake at work, I know it's Him.  Or else how would I have seen it?"  She reiterates this statement to Frankie in chapter 25.

 

Will gives Iris the responsibility of "watching over" Emma in his absence.  He hands her a letter to deliver in case he never returns. In his absence Iris gets to know Emma.  She sees her daily and holds conversations with her.  Iris starts to care for Emma.

 

So when the letter from Will's landlady came, poor Iris was one tortured individual.  She had to find some sort of balance with the duties of her job, her responsibility to the Man Upstairs and her obligations to Will and Emma.  So she made the best decision she could make at the time.  Was it the right decision?  Probably.  It afforded Emma time to cultivate friendships with Iris, Harry, Otto and Frankie.  Those friendships were going to be her pillars of support.

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ilenekm
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

I finally finished the book. I was so far behind that I was unable to participate in any of the discussions. I really enjoyed this book especially the way that the characters and relationships were developed. Emma seemed to me to be a fragile person who needed the most protecting. This was also evident to Iris and Frankie who protected her by not giving her the letters about will. Emma needed to imagine that he was alive and coming back. She was a newcomer in a town and felt like an outsider. She didnt feel as if she belonged without her husband.  Her protectors became her friend.  

 

In the end of the book, all three women had their own suffering and troubles to deal with. Iris lost Harry, Emma lost Will and Frankie lost her innocence with her experiences during the war. I would hope that they were able to use each other for support all of their lives

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Deltadawn
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Re: Defining Quote

That quote stood out to me, as well.

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Deltadawn
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

I would like to echo what others have stated - I loved this book and am so glad that it was a First Look pick!

In response to the questions posed on this thread - I don't think it is really possible to get the whole story -you can get much of it and see many sides of it, but there is always something else. Is it possible to get out? In many cases, not - especially in Frankie's case. The "story" involved people - people in grave danger and dire circumstances - she was changed forever by her experience - she would always carry them with her.

 

Frankie could not bring herself to break Emma's heart - as Iris could not. I believe I would have delivered the letter if I were Iris, though I understood her reasons for not doing it. It was still quite surprising that she would take such an action considering how strongly she felt about order and her responsibilities as Postmaster.

 

As others have stated, Otto did not need or want pity. Also, he knew of their negative feelings toward him.

 

Both Iris and Frankie surprised me by their actions. I was also surprised (and sad) that Harry died!

 

The attitude of many of the Americans in this novel is very similar to that of Americans prior to 9/11/01 (and even beyond) - they just didn't think it could happen here and many didn't think that what happens elsewhere in the world should or could affect them.

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AIRKNITTER
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

This is a book I will have to read again. I am recommending it to my "real-time" book club. When I finished The Postmistress I sat and wept for a quite a long time. War leaves no winners!!!

Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see.
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nfam
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

I found the letters very confusing. Why didn't Iris deliver the letter? It didn't seem a kindness to keep Emma in suspense. I thought the rationale was poor. I also didn't understand why Frankie had such a hard time delivering the letter, although it made more sense than Iris withholding the first letter. Because of the confusion around the letters, I thought the ending of the book was very weak. The buildup throughout the story made the letters seems very important, but in the end, as in the beginning, the war was the major character and called the shots. 

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MSaff
Posts: 272
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

  Good Day Everyone,

 

 

 

"Get in. Get the story. Get out." That is Murrow's charge to Frankie. Does The Postmistress make you question whether it's possible to ever really get the whole story? Or to get out?

 

  This is an interesting question Murrow’s instructions to Frankie seem quite direct and pointed, however, once Frankie begins her journey into the unknown, she is bombarded with reality.  When I speak of the reality, I am speaking of the people of Germany and quite possibly the Jews, in their plight.  They are being given, by all appearances, the opportunity to leave, but in reality, they are systematically being targeted.  When Frankie starts her journey on the trains, and starts to get the interviewing process going, she becomes overwhelmed.  No longer can she be detached from the story, as she is drawn in with each and every interview. 

  I especially think that the children being left on their own, gives Frankie more concern than she is willing to admit.  This comes to light as she (Frankie) often dreams or has flashbacks on her experiences on the trains and in Germany and France.  I believe that the breaking point for Frankie in this section is when Thomas is shot right in front of her. 

  So I guess the answer to the original question is NO.  You can’t Get in, Get the story, and Get out.  There are just too many variables, and reality and compassion got in the way. 

 

  If you were Iris, would you have delivered the letter? Why or why not? What good, if any, grew up in the gap of time that Emma didn't know news? What did Emma lose by not knowing immediately?

 

  I would hope that if I were Iris that I would have delivered the letter.  One thing that I am going to note here is that Iris only received a letter from Will’s Landlord, stating that he had not returned to his apartment in London.  Not that he was dead.  This is the letter that I am speaking of with regard to Iris.  Yes, she did have a letter written by Will to be given to Emma in the event of his death, but Iris never knew until the telegram was received and the news of his death was confirmed. 

  The letter, which probably should have been delivered, was that which Frankie carried following Will’s death.  When Frankie decided to go to Franklin, Massachusetts, her intent was to deliver that letter to Emma.  When she did not initially give Emma the letter, a series of events occurred which made it harder and harder for Frankie to give the letter to Emma.  Eventually, it was just to late.


Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
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thewanderingjew
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

 

From an answer Sarah Blake wrote to me, I have a feeling she wanted to tell us that ordinary people are also caught up in the consequences of war. Perhaps her message is that war has an awful effect on everyone, undeservedly in some cases. It is really hard to come up with anything good to say about going to war, even when it must be fought for the greater good, and that often depends on whose eyes are looking.Those rescued will find a good reason to go to war, but the cost is great and it would be far better if we could prevent the hate that leads us there in the first place. Peace is an admirable, ultimate  goal, therefore.

skiibunny1213 wrote:

I am having a hard time understanding the overarching message the author is trying to convey in this book.  After ruminating on it some I have come up with the following disjointed ideas/conclusions.  Any help making sense of it all would be greatly appreciated!!!

 

 

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Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

 

War does call the shots. How nations deal with its fury becomes the theme; how individual characters adapt to its demands remains the question mark in every story.
The emphasis in this case is not on Emma, though the other two women claim concern for and consideration of the "poor pregnant widow," the emphasis is on the character development of Iris and Frankie. A story needs character development to move forward; had they stayed true to the way they were originally portrayed the story would be boring. And since there are two parallel stories (war and non-war ) there had to be two letters and two opposing character shifts. Since Frankie is the one who witnesses the war, she had to bring it to town, but she also had to show greater understanding (positive character shift) to bring awareness to the town.
I see Iris as the impersonation of the German masses who did not question authority. Frankie is the rest of the world, waking up to the ever-growing danger. Emma is the bystander as victim. Otto is the hunted. Harry and Will are the ones who looked in the wrong direction, sidetracked by a vision. In Harry's case a U-boat. In Will's case a woman who looks like Emma and carries a child. One sees war in the tranquility of a harbor scene and the other sees tranquility where there is war.

nfam wrote:

I found the letters very confusing. Why didn't Iris deliver the letter? It didn't seem a kindness to keep Emma in suspense. I thought the rationale was poor. I also didn't understand why Frankie had such a hard time delivering the letter, although it made more sense than Iris withholding the first letter. Because of the confusion around the letters, I thought the ending of the book was very weak. The buildup throughout the story made the letters seems very important, but in the end, as in the beginning, the war was the major character and called the shots. 


 

 

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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

I loved the double meaning of the title!  Both Frankie and Iris are women who did not deliver the mail.  Going into the story, I would not have understood or supported not delivering a letter to someone.  However, after completing the story and understanding both Iris’ and Frankie’s reasons for not delivering letters, and deciding never to deliver the letters, I have to say that I am in support of their decisions.  In the end, the letters they each held were meaningless.  It was best to wait for official word, via the telegram, and never to reveal their secret letters.

 

As I have mentioned, I have read many historical fiction books, many about World War II, and thought the premise of this story was wonderful and original.  Through Frankie, we saw and heard the horrors of war, yet Frankie allowed us to put names and faces with the stories of war, which I think is essential in understanding the effect of war. 

 

I also liked the contrast of the home front with the war front.  This duality added great depth and contrast to the story.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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maude40
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

On page 226, the first paragraph, Emma muses how she found herself with Will,

"For the first time in her life, with Will, she had come to see herself----her waist, her arms, the bone on her wrist-----in his hands. Because he'd been watching her. Like a fairy kissed into being, or the mermaid suddenly walking, or any damn story about someone who had been invisible; suddenly, fantastically, appearing."

Emma was so fragile when she met Will and as she waited to hear from him and when she found out he was dead she became stronger and stronger. He willed her strength to go on for their child. Yvonne

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Bonnie_C
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

In regards to drawing parallels:  History seems to repeat itself.  It's almost like a Hollywood remake.  The technology is more advanced, the actors are different, but the plot is so familiar.

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Fozzie
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)


emmagrace wrote:

I am pretty sure that we can never really get the whole story! There are to many sides and versions to ever really know for sure!


Yes, this is an improtant point to remember.  This is the story Frankie told.  She admitted that she couldn't know everything and filled in the blanks as necessary.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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literature
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

 

 

"Get in. Get the story. Get out." That is Murrow's charge to Frankie. Does The Postmistress make you question whether it's possible to ever really get the whole story? Or to get out?

Reporting the war only gives you the facts as it is happening at that moment i.e. breaking news.  To follow one family on its journey doesn't have the same impact as would in hearing the names of all the people that Frankie recorded. By making recordings of the people,  they suddenly became real.  There was now a name to the person being driven out.  Multiple that by the tens of thousands of people being rounded up and maybe the United States would realize what was happening.  "Masses moving and no where to go".   Fleeing to other nations had become a race against death.  Since this was not being reported back in the states, Frankie wanted these stories on the front page of the newspaper, not buried in the back.  Murrow believed you had to keep moving.  Tell what you see and then move on.  That's the job.  Keep moving and keep telling.  Frankie believed the minute you start thinking something else that's the moment you stop paying attention and paying attention is all we've got.  Max had told her that once you look away...into descriptions, into a metaphor of any type...is the time it collapses.

 

 

Why wasn't Frankie able to deliver the letter or tell Emma about meeting Will? For Someone whose job was to deliver news, did she fail?

 

It was Frankie's job to deliver news to the general public.  Giving someone (an individual) news is the not the same.  It would serve no purpose at this point for Frankie to deliver the letter.  If she gave Emma the letter, she would have killed him to Emma.  Emma needed to believe that he was still alive and had built a barrier around herself denying he might be dead.  At this point Frankie couldn't say "Will died, when, where or how nor could she tell Emma of the conversations she and Will had.  Will never opened like that to Frankie and it would kill Emma if she found out Will had been talking to another woman like that.  No, she did not fail in not delivering the letter to Emma.


 

If you were Iris, would you have delivered the letter? Why or why not? What good, if any, grew up in the gap of time that Emma didn't know news? What did Emma lose by not knowing immediately?

 

Iris had no right to keep the landlord's letter no matter how much Iris thought she was protecting Emma.  It was Emma's right to know what was going on with Will and by Iris not giving her the letter, she was preventing Emma from moving on with her life (if that is possible).  Emma just kept living, the barrier getting thicker and thicker to protect her.  She was in complete denial about Will, was having a baby now and had no means of supporting herself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

 


nfam wrote:

I found the letters very confusing. Why didn't Iris deliver the letter? It didn't seem a kindness to keep Emma in suspense. I thought the rationale was poor. I also didn't understand why Frankie had such a hard time delivering the letter, although it made more sense than Iris withholding the first letter. Because of the confusion around the letters, I thought the ending of the book was very weak. The buildup throughout the story made the letters seems very important, but in the end, as in the beginning, the war was the major character and called the shots. 


 

I ponder whether Iris would have delivered the letter from the landlady if she had not had the letter in her drawer to be delivered on Will's death.  I suspect Iris was "waiting" for that news as much as Emma, given that Will had not been heard from for weeks.  I would have written Iris as delivering both letters if the one she opened said Will had died.  She probably expected that so much that she was thrown off kilter by the actual contents, when she then made a hasty decision.  Certainly, as Postmaster, she had no right to open the letter from the landlady.  However, as holder of the letter from Will, her moral trespass seems a little more comprehensible.  Acceptance of Will's letter seems to be one place where Iris strayed from her postmaster persona.

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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BDonnelly
Posts: 47
Registered: ‎04-22-2008

Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

What is a job?  What are the expectations we put upon ourselves from the job and what are the expectations we put upon ourselves from being a human being and what are the expectations we put upon ourselves from living in and reacting to this world?  I think both Frankie and Iris were very committed to their jobs but were caught between being the kind of person they were (which I also think changed through the story) and the kind of person they become as a result of their experiences.  And, they both do things very uncharacteristic for them - Frankie not giving the letter or telling Emma she met Will and Iris not giving the letter and chopping down the flagpole. Do those acts represent the end of the innocence for Frankie and Iris?

 

I think Iris and Frankie both fail at their jobs in certain respects but they don't fail as human beings.  Just like our men and women over in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Europe and the Pacific we ask them to do a job that requires them to be super human or sub human.  I think the fact they can't do all of their jobs makes them just human.  I don't know what I would have done in the story.  But I do know that I am neither super or sub human (at least what I've evidenced so far.) 

 

I think Otto didn't tell he was Jewish because it had become such a dangerous thing to be.  He was chased out of his home and homeland, lost his wife and I believe he didn't have enough faith in people to believe they wouldn't turn on him too.  Or, maybe he was afraid of a German invasion and thought it would be safer to not disclose that info in that event.  Or, maybe he wanted to identify with the perceived bully rather than the victim.

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literature
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

Why does Otto refuse to tell the townspeople that he's Jewish? Would you have?

 

The residents of Franklin think Otto is a "Kraut" and they would like nothing better than to catch a Kraut.  They follow him; the boys stone him; Mrs. Cripps watches him put his room light on and off, on and off, thinking he is part of a German invasion.  None of the Franklin residents befriend him. He talks with Harry, but remember he is renting the room from Harry.  Emma and Frankie have about the closet relationship with him and they are both outsiders.  He sees Iris at the post office, has routine conversations about the mail; she is an outsider as well.  Otto goes into the town cafe to buy a deck of playing cards and everyone there watch as Otto examines the deck of playing cards.  Otto pays for the cards and leaves.  Johnny Cripps was quick to tell Frankie that he was a Kraut and she should watch herself.  I remember reading somewhere in the book that the residents wouldn't rent a room to the Jews.  After all this, how could you question why Otto is reluctant to tell the townspeople that he is Jewish.  if I was Otto, I wouldn't have.  These people have no desire to befriend a stranger, let alone someone who is thought to be a Kraut and turns out to be Jewish.

 

I grew up in NYC at a time when NYC was considered one big melting pot.  I was once at a new job, a coworker who just found out that I was Jewish said to me that he once knew a Jew.  I looked at him and said "Now you know two".  He grew up in a relatively small town in NY State. This was in the early 1980's. 

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fordmg
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Re: Last Chapters


dhaupt wrote:

 


Choisya wrote:

 

Do you think that Harry represents those American servicemen who lost their lives in the war, perhaps those who volunteered to fight?  He was, in a way, fighting the war right from the beginning.  The American government and some of the American people might not have been alert to the dangers of the war but he darn well was!  I see him metaphorically as a handsome GI in uniform - the sort who tried to give me nylons and chocolate.:smileyvery-happy:  


Hmm Choisya,
something to definitely think about. And I don't know, I was confused about Harry's death because it seemed untimely right when everything was finally coming together for him. I know that people lived shorter lives then and heavens look at their life style, but I would have preferred it if Harry had lived. But then again if he had lived I guess he wouldn't still be on my mind either.   But as far as he representing the deaths of our GIs, it's something to think about.

 


I can see that Harry would die of a heart attack.  He was significantly older than Iris.  He was under a lot of stress.  He felt his job looking for U-Boats was of prime importance.  When he finally spotted one, he seized.  It could easily have happened.

MG 

 


 

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skiibunny1213
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Re: Later Chapters: Summer, 1941 (18 - 28)

 

Sunltcloud - you always have a way of clearing things up for me when I am not seeing the bigger picture... I am so glad you are in these First Look groups... thank you!!

Sunltcloud wrote:

 

War does call the shots. How nations deal with its fury becomes the theme; how individual characters adapt to its demands remains the question mark in every story.
The emphasis in this case is not on Emma, though the other two women claim concern for and consideration of the "poor pregnant widow," the emphasis is on the character development of Iris and Frankie. A story needs character development to move forward; had they stayed true to the way they were originally portrayed the story would be boring. And since there are two parallel stories (war and non-war ) there had to be two letters and two opposing character shifts. Since Frankie is the one who witnesses the war, she had to bring it to town, but she also had to show greater understanding (positive character shift) to bring awareness to the town.
I see Iris as the impersonation of the German masses who did not question authority. Frankie is the rest of the world, waking up to the ever-growing danger. Emma is the bystander as victim. Otto is the hunted. Harry and Will are the ones who looked in the wrong direction, sidetracked by a vision. In Harry's case a U-boat. In Will's case a woman who looks like Emma and carries a child. One sees war in the tranquility of a harbor scene and the other sees tranquility where there is war.

nfam wrote:

I found the letters very confusing. Why didn't Iris deliver the letter? It didn't seem a kindness to keep Emma in suspense. I thought the rationale was poor. I also didn't understand why Frankie had such a hard time delivering the letter, although it made more sense than Iris withholding the first letter. Because of the confusion around the letters, I thought the ending of the book was very weak. The buildup throughout the story made the letters seems very important, but in the end, as in the beginning, the war was the major character and called the shots.