Dear Mrs Bird
by A.J. Pearce
Book #1 in the 2019 Rare Birds Reading Challenge
London, 1940. Emmeline 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 suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.
Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, 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 back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.
Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.
I didn’t have any expectations going into this book as I’d not heard a single thing about it before it landed on my doorstep but “Dear Mrs Bird”, January’s Rare Birds Book Club book, has truly impressed me.
Emmeline Lake is an optimistic, plucky young woman in her early twenties living in London during the Second World War. Emmy longs to work as a War Correspondent so when she comes across a job advert that will put her on the right track she’s eager to get started. So when she turns up on her first day to find that she’s mistakenly signed up to work as a typist for an uptight agony aunt, she’s more than disappointed.
This story is charming, comical and for the most part light-hearted at a time when air raids were frequent and buildings were crumbling and burning left, right and centre. Emmy is determined to keep living her life as normal, living in the city with her endearing best friend Bunty.
“Stiff upper lips and getting on with things were all very well, but sometimes there was nothing to do but admit that things were quite simply awful. War was foul and appalling and unfair.”
With strong themes of friendship and loyalty, A.J. Pearce has created characters to love in these two girls, paying homage to the women who volunteered and played their part in the War whilst still managing to go about their daily lives. Pearce manages to immerse you into 1940 without it feeling dreary, sad or frightening. Instead she focuses on the good and gallantry that was happening at the time to tell a heartfelt, feel-good story.
The plot, while not being jam-packed with action, is truly interesting and kept my attention from start to finish. For once I felt that the book was a suitable length (usually one of my biggest complaints), so that must be a good thing! I’m quite sad to say goodbye to Emmy and am already planning on passing this book on to those who I know would enjoy it.
Overall rating: “Dear Mrs Bird” tells the heartwarming story of plucky heroine, Emmy Lake and her best friend Bunty, two young women living in London in the 1940s. The characters are warm, funny and charming and all help to highlight the incredible impact that war had on people’s personal lives, as well as the contributions of hardworking men and women at the time. I really enjoyed this one – 5 stars.