Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
Publishing Date: 5th April 2018
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 316
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.
Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .
Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times.
This debut novel by A.J. Pearce caught my eye immediately, promising a light – hearted and uplifting story, and I’ve also heard many good things about this book already. And it delivered, introduced me to lovely, vivid and quirky characters, and brought back hope for a little humanity. So if you are in need of a little positive vibe, then do not hesitate and try this “uplit” tale of hope, love and friendship in hard times – as “Dear Mrs Bird” was utterly gorgeous, charming and unexpected.
This story is told from Emmy’s point of view and she’s our main character. She’s young but she knows what she wants and right now she wants to be a war correspondent. Due to one mistake, she changes her jobs, thinking she’s going to become a reporter in The London Evening Chronicle. She’ll manage to squeeze her job as a volunteer telephone operator at the Auxiliary Fire Service as well. However, it turns out, that she’s not going to be a proper journalist but a junior typist, typing responses written in a Woman’s Friend Magazine by Mrs Bird. Mrs Bird is a very special character – she’s the only one who’s answering the letters and her list of Unacceptables is longer than Emmy’s arm. So letters including topics such as divorce, affairs, unhappiness land in the bin. Emmy can’t come to terms with this fact so one day she decides to write back to the women who so desperately need a kind word – because I forgot to mention that Mrs Bird’s kindness meant pouring cold water over readers’ heads.
However, that’s not all that’s happening in Emmy’s life, oh no!
I truly loved and adored the characters, and their approach to the War and things happening around. Some of the greatest scenes were when the girls were on duty at the fire brigade, answering the phones during one of the bombing – they were cool as cucumbers and nothing would be able to push their buttons. The way people got adjusted during the War is for me always a thing to admire – they were trying to live as normal as possible. They joked, they went to dances or to the cinema. Of course, the War influenced them in every possible way but still, they didn’t let it to break them, and I truly admired it in them.
A.J. Pearce has transported us in her debut novel to London’s streets during the WWII. She very well balanced humour with sadness, and the novel is both very uplifting and very heart – breaking. It was also provocative, what with the way Emmy decides to take actions in her own hands, however she’s got a full blessing from me personally, as I could really understand where she was coming from, to feel her desperation and knowing what she wanted to achieve – and as a result we got compassionate and realistic correspondence – based on real letters from the Forties, sent into advice columns. They show in a perfect way how the lives of the women were affected not only by the War but also by the hypocrisy of attitudes of those times. I loved the way Emmy was thinking – she knew where the real priorities were and when other people were risking their lives she decided that breaking a rule here or there will be better than letting the real problems stay unanswered.
Despite being set during London Blitz, it was a fluffy, charming and optimistic read. The author not only shows the optimistic side of the characters, but she also shows how the war affects them. She juxtaposes the relatively colourful world of Woman’s Friend Magazine and the blackness of the wartime events, showing the bravery of people working or volunteering for fire brigade, describing their feeling when faced with bombings and their victims, with shortages and upheaval. I really enjoyed this book and I’d urge you to try it for yourself.