Book Review - Dear Mrs Bird
This feel-good debut novel is a sensitive and funny portrayal of wartime London, female friendship, and a young woman’s introduction into the world of work. Inspired by real letters, magazines and problem pages of the 1940s, it sees its young narrator, Emmy Lake, start a new job where she comes up against the irrepressible Mrs Henrietta Bird, an eminent female journalist and agony aunt.
Emmy lives with her friend Bunty in London in 1940, and works as a secretary as well as volunteering to answer phones for the fire service in the evening. But she’s long dreamed of being a war correspondent, so when she sees an advertisement in the newspaper for a job as a junior at The London Evening Chronicle she leaps at the chance. After a rather strange and perfunctory interview, she gets the job, but soon discovers that, rather than working on the newspaper, she’s actually been employed to work on a failing magazine called Woman’s Friend. Her job is to choose the letters for the problem page, which are answered by Mrs Bird.
However, Mrs Bird has very strict rules about what sort of topics she will address on her problem page. She refuses to respond to any letters about ‘relations’, politics, religion, the war… or even cookery (as that’s dealt with by another journalist). Not only will these letters go unanswered, they will be cut up and put in the bin. Unfortunately, this leaves Emmy with very few letters to choose from. And, what’s more, she feels bad about ignoring the many correspondents with real problems and worries about marriage, sex and relationships. So Emmy decides to step into the role of Mrs Bird and answer some of the letters herself… a decision which will get her into trouble.
Set against the backdrop of the London Blitz, this is a heartwarming tale which doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of the Second World War. Emmy has her own troubled relationship with her fiancé Edmund to deal with, and relations are also strained between Emmy and Bunty’s fiancé William, who is a volunteer fireman. She finds herself keeping all sorts of secrets, whilst being under pressure to constantly keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ and battle on with the ‘Blitz spirit’ with which this period of history is invariably associated.
"an impressive and engrossing story"
A.J. Pearce’s debut is an impressive and engrossing story, which will appeal to both fans of historical sagas and readers of modern fiction. At its heart is a young woman trying to make her way in a world where women are often ignored and sidelined, and where any unpleasant elements of life are swept under the carpet. Imbued with a strong sense of humour, this novel is a joy to read and promises the start of a successful career for the author.
Written by Ruth, Marketing