In The Postmistress, Sarah Blake’s illuminating novel set in 1940, the lives of three women are brought together by a relationship to one man, a young doctor, Will Fitch. Emma Trask Fitch is Will’s new bride and her marriage to Will is the first real security she’s had since her parents died when she was young. She was lost before Will; she didn’t feel as if she had an identity. But now she is young Doctor Fitch’s wife and folks see her as if she matters. Even more Will loves her and she loves him and this is everything. Until tragedy strikes and Will is plunged into a dark night of the soul where he feels the only remedy is to leave Emma, leave their cozy home in the relative safety of small town Michigan and offer his services as a doctor in London at a time when London is under siege by the Germans, when frantic, terrified dashes into underground “funk” holes to escape the infernal, incessant bombing is the way life is lived, the way it goes on--if it goes on. In his lengthening absence, Emma is disconsolate. She begins a ritual of going daily to the post office to retrieve Will’s letters. Iris James, postmistress, watches Emma carefully. Iris is a woman who is governed by order, who takes the distribution of the mail and the truth with an equally balanced sense of responsibility, but that changes when she comes across a letter that contains critical information that she chooses to hide. As a reporter, Frankie Bard shares Iris’s sense of moral duty and obligation to the truth. Both Emma and Iris tune in regularly to hear Frankie’s broadcasts that air from London where she was sent from America to report on the Blitz. It’s in London that Frankie meets Will and hears about Emma and through him, Frankie senses Emma’s heartbreak.
Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ