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お通{おつう} is grieving for 又八{またはち}(武蔵{たけぞう} is his friend) who left for war a year ago:

その又八{またはち}は、村の武蔵{たけぞう}といっしょに、去年の夏、戦へとびだしてから、その年が暮れても、沙汰がなかった。正月には――二月には――と便りの空だのみも、この頃は頼みに持てなくなった。もう今年の春も四月に入っているのだった。

宮本武蔵(1935年–1939年、朝日新聞連載、吉川英治)

What does 便りの空だのみ mean (空 pronounced as そら in audiobook)? Is it a fixed expression?

Reference: aozora.gr.jp/cards/001562/files/52396_49781.html

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It should be parsed as:

「[便]{たよ}り + の + [空]{そら}だのみ」

The "key" element here is 「空」, which does not mean "sky". It means "empty", "vain", etc.

Thus, 「空だのみ」 means "hope against hope". 「たのみ」=「頼み」. 「だ」 is a rendaku.

「便り」 means "correspondence", "letter", "news", etc.

All in all, you should have something like:

"indulging in vain hope for a letter"

"hope against hope for some news"

The 「空」 part could be read 「から」 as well. Not sure which one was the author's intended reading.

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