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The Postmistress & Blackout

The heroism of Londoners as they took shelter during nightly bombing raids and carried out their business in as close an approximation to usual as possible during the day quickly become legendary. Two recent novels — The Postmistress and Blackout — give readers a sense of how it might have been to live through the London Blitz, while Americans were divided on what to do.

Given a big publicity boost by Katherine Stockett, author of The Help, The Postmistress by Sarah Blake will be popular with the same readers, but has the added bonus for us of a Massachusetts connection. Confident and strong, Iris James is the postmaster (not postmistress) in the fictitious Cape Cod town of Franklin in 1940, where Emma Fitch has just moved to join her husband, a young doctor. Country after country is falling to the Germans, President Roosevelt is promising Americans their boys are “not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” and plucky radio correspondent Frankie Bard is bucking male chauvinism in broadcasting, reporting heartrending stories of the Blitz that bring the war home to American listeners.

If you’re an audiobook reader, try The Postmistress on audio, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. (The only problem with an otherwise excellent audio version is that the characters with broad Boston accents sounded more like Mainers to me.) Like The Help, The Postmistress is a good story, grounded in American history, with strong female characters, and many poignant moments.
Read The New York Times review of The Postmistress here.

Blackout, the new book by science fiction author Connie Willis, is also about the London Blitz and other historical turning points in England during World War II.
Set in the same time-travel universe as The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout’s storyline is continued in All Clear, which isn’t coming out until fall. (!) Readers will have to wait to find out what happens to the time-traveling young historians in Blackout, whose cautiously laid plans for safe travel in and out of London and surrounding areas during crucial periods in World War II history have gotten them in to observe the casual heroism of ordinary Brits, but aren’t working to get them — ordinary historians now in crisis themselves — back to their own time.
Read The Washington Post review of Blackout here.
Check availability of Blackout in the OCLN catalog here.

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

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Richard Russo must have had fun writing That Old Cape Magic — a thinking person’s beach book. No, it’s not Empire Falls or The Bridge of Sighs, but it’s not intended to be.
Instead of sitting down and opening a vein, as writers are said to do, author Richard Russo might have sat down at his computer and opened a bottle of locally brewed Shipyard beer to launch himself into the story of ex-screenwriter Jack Griffin. Griffin’s marriage unravels on Cape Cod, in Truro, where he and his wife, Joy, celebrated their honeymoon many years before. The story jumps around—from Griffin’s childhood with two eccentric academic parents to the early years of Griffin’s marriage to his parents’ declining years and Griffin’s own daughter’s eventual wedding—succeeding in the neat trick of making you muse about the nature of marriage and parenthood while you laugh…and wince. A perfect end-of-summer read.
In an entertaining Q&A on Knopf’s Web site, Russo says his two daughters were both married during the period in which he wrote That Old Cape Magic, confessing that he imagined a disastrous wedding scene for the book as a way of warding off catastrophe in real life. (His ploy worked.)
Richard Russo talks on tape with New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus here.
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