Friday, May 13, 2011

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Iris James, the postmistress of a small seaside community, was someone who honored the concept of order and defied the encroachment of any un-orderliness during the build-up to America’s involvement in World War II.
Throughout the whole book there is a struggle of whether life is random or somehow “adds up”. Is God really there and in charge – or not. Do our actions matter – or not.
And also, it is about the stories told by the voices of real people that touch us and cause us to stop and want to reach out to others. But why don’t we?
I think the author had an underlying motive to point out to us our own naïve complacency. She describes the complacency of Americans when they listened to reports of the atrocities of the Nazis and the treatment of Jews in the early 1940’s. The postmistress was one of those who kept herself detached and focused only on her own domain where she kept the mail moving in a very predictable and precise manner. She didn’t want to think of the chaos and destruction just across the water in Europe. Her boyfriend Harry, however, was obsessed with the notion that the chaos would be arriving soon on their own shores. But both of them denied the warnings that the young female radio journalist wanted them to heed: the holocaust was real and it wasn’t just a Jewish problem; it was a humanity problem.
That reminds me of a children’s book story by Eve Bunting. It is called “Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust”. I recommend that you read both “Terrible Things” and “The Postmistress”.



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