I’ve been excited to write this book review for a while! Lydia Pyne’s book on postcards is lovely: full-colour reproductions of a number of different interesting postcards illustrate the text, and her enthusiasm for postcards shines through on every page. She suggests that postcards were the world’s earliest social network, a way that people communicated casually across sometimes great distances, and shared something of themselves in the process. She points out that many traditional postcard designs and messages look exactly like scrolling through someone’s Instagram account, for example, which makes total sense to me.
There were a lot of fascinating anecdotes in this book. I found myself slipping in a little sticky page marker for something I wanted to come back to again and again. Admittedly, sometimes I wanted to argue with it a bit, and I was a bit confused by the fact that it didn’t even mention Postcrossing (which would, if anything, support the social network idea)—particularly when she said that nobody really sends postcards anymore.
But mostly I just found it fascinating. I think the most interesting part was the section on political postcards, and the suggestion that postcards were used explicitly to support the revolution in Russia (from early anti-imperialist postcards in the 1870s to Soviet propaganda in the 1930s). Because they were difficult to control, despite the best efforts of the state, they reached all kinds of people. The suffrage movement also involved postcards, and it’s fascinating to wonder about how they might have changed people’s minds, chipping away at their preconceptions a little bit at a time. One postcard on its own may not seem much, but it does form a connection—and it makes me think about the way that Postcrossing in particular can form connections between random people who would never meet otherwise.
I’d say that this book does exactly what I ask of a good non-fiction book: it gives me more questions than answers, about other things I’d like to learn or delve deeper into. Each chapter outlines a facet of the topic, but there’s always more to learn. I need to look out for more books to fill the gaps!
As always, I welcome new suggestions about books relating to the mail, postal systems, letters, etc—let me know any titles that come to mind via the forum (you’ll need to be logged in to view this post, and may need to browse around and participate a little before you can reply in this section of the forum). My next review will probably be about E.C.R. Lorac’s mystery, Post After Post-Mortem… but something else might grab me first: you never know.