A Few Words From the Author of The Postmistress

Hi, Bookies:

A couple of questions came up in your discussion of The Postmistress, and Sarah Blake was happy to answer them for you.

Question from Kristin Appenbrink: I wonder why Sarah Blake decided to leave all three of the main characters on their own in the end?

Sarah Blake: As so often happens when writing a novel, characters arrive at their fate often without the author planning or deciding on it! I knew that Frankie was going to be telling the story and I imagined that she was never going to be the type who settled down, somehow always roaming, always in search of the next story. Iris was the only character who might not have ended alone, but I grew more and more convinced that the novel needed to end with her cutting down the flagpole, and that that would be an act of grief. The only character I knew for certain from the beginning was going to lose her partner was Emma—she was always going to be an unwitting widow.

I do think, however, that Emma and Iris probably draw close to one another, remaining in town, Iris serving as a kind of godmother to Emma’s child. So they are not perhaps, entirely alone.

Question from a few readers: Why is the book called The Postmistress? Is it named after Iris or did the author consider Frankie a postmistress too?

SB: The question as to the name of the novel is a great one, and it is quite possibly the one most often asked! On the literal level, you remember that it is Frankie who tells us this story—the war story she never filed—and it was she who first called Iris a “postmistress,” though Iris has always insisted on herself as “postmaster.” So the book takes its title from Frankie.

On the larger level, yes, I do think Frankie is the postmistress as well, and that both women slip from their “official” roles—as postmaster who always delivers the news, as reporter who always reports the news—when faced with a letter they find they can’t deliver. Somehow, I think the word postmistress registers this slippage.

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