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Bringing the war home in "tiny human details"
The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
Member Name: 1st2thebar
The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
Date: 30/01/13, updated on 04/02/13 (49 review reads)
Advantages: Contemporary style - poetic licence
Disadvantages: Blake only writes one book every eight years
The three entwined characters are Frankie (the travel journalist) Emma (the newly wed to a doctor whom absconded to aid casualties of the Blitz); and Iris, (the middle aged postmaster).
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The Postmistress will be known as one of the bravest forms of contemporary scripts of the early twenty first century, poetic in description and it all derived by a fleeting moment of inspiration, a vision, from a post office. Blake literary sat on her contemporary concept for eight years, a dedication that has the potential to drown lesser authors. Whereby research into the unspoken world of lost war narratives, and morality - Blake suitably hits on the moral notes as if conducting a 'symphony of sympathy' not of the teary kind but of the moral kind - 'note by note, brings a lump to the throat' - Blake though is no Nicholas Sparks thank goodness, her quest is to not open the tear-duct flood-gates. Her prose is refreshingly contemporary; unlike the archaic romanticism Sparks manufactures, whom enrols in clichés as if his livelihood depended on it - oh it does, sorry - Blake instead captured narratives from a forgotten era about a subject matter no-one spoke of at length nor heard of during 1940 - 41, when conflict hit Europe in the shape of the Nazis' - Blake's nurtured approach to narratives at this calamitous period is typically American and endearing. I could imagine dear Sarah wrestling with the mountains of forgotten converse, that redefined women's lifestyles, that created trepidation, thwarted dreams, worse still, the American dream. The envelope masked the words, the words manifested into personal treasures - the precious wordage etched into the lives of its audience, and Blake brought it back to life - seventy years on. Yes-s, a mammoth task, with a moral responsibility; stylised to enrich and re-established a world pre - Pearl Harbour - before the gargantuan mushroom. 'The Postmistress' is set at a pinnacle period when the Americans' were encroaching war. This war concept deemed alien to America - since their divided nation, eighty years prior. Blake sets the scene of women preparing for warfare as did their great grand parents during the turbulent time of Lincoln; the difference being, 'modern communications' of a postal service and telegrams.
Blake's historical fiction uses resources from the era of her subject but systematically portrays contemporary structure at its core. A clever means to put an author's stamp on the script, a method commonly used by contemporary writers to resolve the headache of the conventional chronological arrangement - so the contemporary author decides to take their audience on a journey back and forth via time frames; in Blake's case War in Europe / London - and peace in America. Blake achieves her primary vision by allowing her creative licence to shift between chronological orders - Intermittently developing a credible Blake prose of the world - hence, the extra dimension to this book. Ultimately the characters depicted in the book are not verbosely written as if detailing shipping forecasts - such occasions invariably distract the author's historical prose. The author is 'writing from her impression of a war-torn era', simulated by documents, letters and grainy media footage. Valid historical content with the nuance to convey it to fiction - on the intelligence that what has been documented is third or fourth hand information, she isn't disparaging to any particular source. Blake is mollified in research, but not to her detriment. As I've not done eight years of content research, I'm in no position to comment on accuracy errors, especially as the genre is historical 'fiction'. 'The Postmistress' documents three main analogies of women's lives / circumstances / duties - amalgamated behind the physically torturing scenes from the battlefield to the mentally torturing scenes in a post room and onward to the intended recipient. Good news is when the loved ones are returning home injured or found in action. Blake's unearthed data delves into a different angle of torrid warfare the tortuous LIA (Lost in action) reporting, to the tortuous moral decision of a postmaster.
This was a time when a letter that has taken weeks to arrive to its intended destination, when communication was a desideratum.
The book's narrations are from reporter Frances Bard, known as Frankie (fictional) she was Edward Murrow's (1908 - 1965) protégé. Edward is not fictional - he was a real 'new-bullet-in man', a household name during WWII - very prominent in American radio news broadcasts. Frankie's deployment during the Blitz captures grandiose acts of human resolve, for the sake of love, loss, and hope all in the hands of the postmistress. Frankie's inspiration was the travel writer Martha Gellhorn (1908 - 1998), like all travel writers; they amass their interview dialogues on transit. Although Frankie uses a portable recording device to document the Jewish fugitives stories while on trains, hoping to reach the promise-land to live out their 'American Dreams' - immigrants eager for a slice of the American pie, yet most of the ports weren't open for business. As fugitives, they were hunted down Tommy Lee Jones style - In a bid to escaping persecution, acts of ethnic cleansing; for them the front-line is on rail-lines, food-lines, and field-lines. In the tales a coincidental hook captivates the audience, with awe, and wonder, followed by a devastating blunder. Blake the author intended the portable recording device usage in the 1940 script - (such a device wasn't in circulation until several years later). Considering the author was going via vocal dialogues for narratives, it would be viable Frankie emulated the process. Therefore, Blake manufactures her own contemporary historical fiction - to serve out her quest of mingling digital vocal converse with chronological data. One minute she's visualising the meticulous facets of the forties, next she is logging onto her account on 'YouTube' deciphering over Edward R Murrow news-bullet-ins - in 'The Postmistress', the 'here and then world's' dance naturally in unison - what comes apparent is that Blake does claim there were three kinds of heroes when warfare knocks at life's door. The bellicose hero who is dutiful in combat who 'lives or dies' - the women who continues with life's daily routines under a cloud of despair and profound uncertainty and the informed postmistress who battles with her postal oath whether or not to deliver an; 'on the event of my death..... Send this letter!' - For the sake of hope. When hope dies, what else is there?
CBS News extract:
"Now the talk was of a German invasion. Would England stand? Their tanks and trucks, their guns, hulked useless on the other side of the channel, where they left them at Dunkirk. But when we were told the Brits had dragged cannons out of the British Museum, wheeling them down to the Thames, we nodded".
This is the moment the Americans had 'opted-in' with their minds and souls. The bigger story that it was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour took centre stage, well, it makes for a more exclusive news story - however, in reality the Americans' hearts and minds were already won. Only in history syllabuses the big story holds fort. Blake knows there is no credible warfare narrative in portraying one scenario - everyone is valid, no-one is insignificant. Therefore 'The Postmistress', as a piece of historical literature needed to be a reporters styled view-point of the front-line - and as you are aware on the front-line there are a multitude of characters with their own story to tell. Single out personal accounts, 'give-m their fifteen minutes of fame'. Without any vocals, there is no story - this is was Blake's literary battlefield, much of it influenced by Edward R Murrow's journalistic ethic of 'leaving no stone left un-turned, every story is valid'.
Towards the end, the heroic trio (Frankie, Iris, and Emma) were at the same venue, same time, and talking about the same trepidation, in different perspectives. Highly recommended.
Summary: Contemporary Historical Fiction - That is 'Fiction'.