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The Postmistress Discussion Questions

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

'The Postmistress' is a new perspective on a World War II story and a book that combines strong characters and current-sounding events. Use these questions to discuss the story, literary elements, social issues, and personal responses.

The Postmistress

Sarah Blake's novel The Postmistress is a story of how everyday people cross paths with catastrophic world events and how they respond in big and small ways to forces outside of their control. The novel uses a story about several individuals on the fringes of World War II to invite readers to consider their own interactions with neighbors as well as the world at large. Draw your students into this conversation using this collection of discussion questions.

Questions About the Story

  • What personal need does Emma hope to meet in Franklin? How does her experience compare to her expectations?
  • Why does Frankie want to stay in London, in danger, when she could easily leave?
  • Consider the scenes where we first meet Iris, Emma, and Frankie. Why did the author choose these specific scenes to introduce these three women? How do these scenes foreshadow the rest of the novel?
  • How are Will and Emma driven by their families and their pasts?
  • How does the small town dynamic of Franklin impact the events of the story?
  • What contrasting attitudes toward the war were displayed by different characters? Which did you find to be most appropriate and why?
  • What do you think of Frankie's train trip? Was it worthwhile?
  • Should Iris have withheld the landlady's letter from Emma?
  • Why does Frankie finally tell the story of the letter?
  • What is your response to Harry's death?
  • We are left not knowing what Frankie did with her recordings. What do you think she should have done?

Questions About Literary Elements

  • How does the author use Frankie's London reports to shape the story unfolding in Franklin?
  • The Postmistress is an example of historical fiction. What is the value of historical fiction?
  • How does the opening chapter, told by Frankie in the first person, affect your experience of the rest of the novel as you read?
  • Frankie claims that ''Every story - love or war - is a story about looking left when we should have been looking right.'' How is this true for different characters in The Postmistress? Can you think of any other literary examples?

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