Book Review for “Dear Mrs. Bird” by AJ Pearce.
Summary: “London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down. Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical, London; Other Categories: Novel, Debut, Coming-of-Age, Humor.
Yes, I know, I read the second book in this series before this one, but I enjoyed “Yours Cheerfully” so much that I had to know how the whole thing started. Also, it isn’t like I wasn’t interested in this book when it came out, but I was denied the ARC at the time. No matter… Book Depository to the rescue, and the moment it showed up in my mailbox it went to the top of my TBR pile. This was very well timed since the print book I read before this was the murder mystery novel I read for the Classics Spin, and having something a bit lighter was just the ticket.
Obviously, there were things I already knew about this book before I started reading. I knew who Emmy was and where she was working and volunteering in London. What I understood from the sequel was that something happened in this first book that caused the titular Mrs. Bird to leave the magazine, and that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to read this novel – to solve that mystery. I also knew a few things about Emmy’s best friend Bunty, and Emmy’s love interest. However, I don’t think that what I knew from the sequel were much spoilers for reading this first book, and there were a few surprises for me along the way. Also, I do believe that although I felt there were a few holes in my knowledge of all these characters when I read the second book, it still held together pretty well as a stand-alone.
But the real main reason I wanted to read this debut novel was because I already loved Emmy and I really enjoyed how Pearce was able to use such a light hand to tell a WWII story. that doesn’t happen often, as usually these books are atmospheric and sad and even depressing. That Pearce could build a character as naïve and sweet as Emmy, and give her such brightness when she couldn’t help but see the tragic things happening around her, must have been Pearce’s greatest challenge. Yes, sometimes Emmy does get down in the dumps, but she still does so with a very youthful countenance that is nothing short of enviable. In fact, I think Pearce wanted us to see this young woman in all her immaturity, partially so that we could watch her grow up, even incrementally. This is what made this and the second book so charming.
Now, if I had gotten this as an ARC before it was published, I’m absolutely certain I would have been equally as impressed with this debut novel as I was reading it today. There’s no doubt in my mind that Pearce really has a lovely writing style, and I’m sure I would have expected that this book would achieve all of the fame and success that I watched it receive. Furthermore, I was happy to fall in love with Emmy all over again, and now the only thing I can thing of is… will Pearce bring us a third book in this series? Because I can tell you right now that nothing will stop me from wanting to read more Pearce, or more about sweet Emmy! I mean, now that I know the whole story to the end of the second book, I really want to know the rest of what happens after that. Therefore, how could I not give this book anything but a wholehearted recommendation with a full five out of five stars? I can’t… so that’s exactly what I’m doing!
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This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (#38).