Dear Mrs Bird is a delight to read. Young Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent during the Second World War. Along with her best friend Bunty she Does Her Bit for the war effort by volunteering for the Auxiliary Fire Service, answering emergency calls during overnight shifts. When she sees an advert for a position in a newspaper she grabs the opportunity and applies for the job. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the job she thought it would be and she finds herself typing up answers for the problem page in a women’s magazine. Even worse, her formidable boss, the eponymous Mrs Bird, has a rather large list of problems she considers Unacceptable or which she feels contain Unpleasantness and disregards. Emmy feels sorry and worried for the correspondents who are ignored and decides to reply to some of them herself, becoming bolder in this as the story goes along.
“How awful it would be with no one to listen. What if my only choice was to write to a perfect stranger in a magazine for reassurance or advice? And then, after all that, they ignored me and didn’t reply. It would make things even worse.”
AJ Pearce captured the atmosphere of the era perfectly particularly through the style of the writing, with all those capital letters at the beginning of words indicating Something Rather Important! The excitement of Doing Ones Bit, the importance of a Stiff Upper Lip and Keeping Ones Chin Up helped make the characters feel very real. I could see wartime London clearly in my head whether with people trying to carry on as normal or coming to terms with great devastation following an air raid. The camaraderie of Emmy’s colleagues and Londoners in general in such testing times comes through strongly. I was touched by the strong friendship between Emmy and Bunty which was put to the test in very difficult circumstances, as Emmy begin to wonder how she can advise others while making such a mess of her own life.
Although Dear Mrs Bird begins in a rather light-hearted and humorous style, later in the book the author brings in the harsh realities of war and what was faced by the young people doing their bit for the war effort at home. The danger and traumas faced and how they affected people were clearly evident. Here we see the characters trying to make the best of things and be brave.
Dear Mrs Bird is a charming book really capturing the spirit of the era, celebrating friendship and the courage of ordinary people. I found it a Jolly Good Read and Really Rather Splendid!
My thanks to the publishers, Picador, for my review copy from Netgalley. Dear Mrs Bird will be published in hardback, trade paperback and as an ebook this Thursday 5th April. It will be available from all good book retailers or you can order a copy online here: Dear Mrs Bird
From the back of the book
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.