Blake (The Postmistress) tells the history of the privileged Milton family from 1935 to present day in this powerful family saga. In 1935 New York, Kitty Milton, wife of Ogden, is enjoying the life of a New York society wife with her three children—five-year-old Neddy, three-year-old Moss, and one-year-old Joan—when Neddy dies in an accident. To help his wife heal, Ogden buys Crockett’s Island off the coast of Maine, and through the decades, the island becomes the Miltons’ summer refuge. In 1959, Moss is working in his father’s investment bank and invites his Jewish friend Len Levy, a fellow employee at the firm, and Reg Pauling, a black man and friend of Moss and Len, to visit the island. Len and Joan have been secretly dating, but Len isn’t certain if Joan will acknowledge their relationship in front of her family. The tensions of Len and Reg’s visit result in an argument that brings family secrets to light and ends in drama that will haunt those present for years to come. And in the present-day, as Milton family members must decide what to do with their island inheritance, they discover some answers to their family’s past. Blake has a particular knack for dialogue; she knows exactly how to reveal the hidden depths of the characters both through what is said and what is unsaid. The result is potent and mesmerizing. (May)
“Spanning three generations of Miltons, The Guest Book deserves a spot on your summer TBR in 2019.” Bustle
Praise for Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress
“Great books give you a feeling that you miss all day until you finally get to crawl back inside those pages again. The Postmistress is one of those rare books. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.” Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help
“Some novels we savor for their lapidary prose, others for their flesh and blood characters, and still others for a sweeping narrative arc that leaves us light-headed and changed; Sarah Blake’s masterful The Postmistress serves us all this and more.” Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog
“Even readers who don’t think they like historical novels will love this one and talk it up to their friends. Highly recommended for all fans of beautifully wrought fiction.” Library Journal, starred review
“Blake captures two different worlds…with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions.” Publishers Weekly
“To open Blake’s novel… is to enter a slipstream, so powerful are its velocity, characters, and drama.” ALA Booklist, starred review
“The Postmistress belongs in what Gellhorn called ‘the permanent and necessary’ library.” Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and Devotion
“Hits hard and pushes buttons expertly…Ms. Blake writes powerfully about the fragility of life….” The New York Times
This epic historical tale follows the lives of three generations of New England's wealthy Milton family from the 1930s through the present. However, the novel encompasses much more than the history of one family, as Blake (The Postmistress) also recounts some of America's own growing pains during this period. Delving into politics, race, and the question of what makes a person essentially good, the plot is extremely thought provoking, and the characters make it absorbing. From family patriarch Ogden, purchaser of the island property where the titular guest book is housed, to his children, grandchildren, and friends, all the characters are well rounded and add to the story. VERDICT Blake's well-written sophomore novel will interest her fans. Those who enjoyed Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle, as well as fans of traditional historical fiction, such as Herman Wouk's The Winds of War, will enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/18.]—Elizabeth McArthur, Bexar Cty. Digital Lib., BiblioTech, San Antonio
An island off the coast of Maine: Let's buy it, dear.
"Handsome, tanned, Kitty and Ogden Milton stood ramrod straight and smiling into the camera on the afternoon in 1936 when they had chartered a sloop, sailed out into Penobscot Bay, and bought Crockett's Island." This photo is clipped to a clothesline in the office of professor Evie Milton in the history department at NYU; she found it while cleaning out her mother's apartment after her death. "Since the afternoon in the photograph, four generations of her family had eaten round the table on Crockett's Island, clinked the same glasses, fallen between the same sheets, and heard the foghorn night after night." Evie jokes with an African-American colleague that the photograph represents "the Twilight of the WASPs," then finds herself snappishly defending them. Blake's (The Postmistress, 2010, etc.) third novel studies the unfolding of several storylines over the generations of this family: deaths and losses shrouded in secrecy, terrible errors in judgment, thwarted love—much of it related to or caused by the family's attitudes toward blacks and Jews. While patriarch Ogden Milton presided unflinchingly over his firm's involvement with the Nazis, his granddaughter Evie Milton is married to a Jewish man—who, like any person of his background who has visited Crockett's Island, complains that there's not a comfortable chair in the place. Kitty Milton, the matriarch, twisted by social mores into repressing her tragedies and ignoring her conscience, is a fascinating character, appealing in some ways, pitiable and repugnant in others. Through Kitty and her daughters, Blake renders the details of anti-Semitic prejudice as felt by this particular type of person. Reminiscent of the novels of Julia Glass, the story of the Miltons engages not just with history and politics, but with the poetry of the physical world. "The year wheeled round on its colors. Summer's full green spun to gold then slipping gray and resting, resting white at the bottom of the year...then one day the green whisper, the lightest green, soft and growing into the next day...suddenly, impossibly, it was spring again."
This novel sets out to be more than a juicy family saga—it aims to depict the moral evolution of a part of American society. Its convincing characters and muscular narrative succeed on both counts.