Dear Mrs. Bird
by A.J. Pearce
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 281 Pages
Release date: April 5, 2018
A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.
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.
Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.
I received a free copy of this book through a GoodReads giveaway. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher.
Dear Mrs. Bird is short and sweet. There is nothing really earth-shattering in terms of plot (odds are you’ll see most of the plot points coming before you get to them) but the narrative is imbued with enough humor and charm that it’s difficult to care about its predictability.
While the backdrop of this novel (WWII London) is rather bleak, the tone is surprisingly light and fluffy. The old slogan “Keep calm and carry on” will definitely come to mind as you watch Emmy go about day to day life in the midst of bombings and the looming threat of Hitler. This was one of the most interesting things about the book to me; Dear Mrs. Bird exemplifies how people are able to normalize just about anything. The danger of war is never forgotten, but Emmy and her friends have been living with it long enough that they’ve learned to live with it. Sure, Hitler is dropping bombs on their city, but everyday life, blossoming careers, and trips to night clubs must go on. There are moments when the danger becomes sickeningly real to them, but in between, letting life stop would be letting Hitler win, and they can’t abide that.
The letters Emmy sorts for her work at the women’s magazine are a large driving force in this novel. Mrs. Bird is loathe to respond to any queries about “socially unacceptable” problems, leaving very little in the “acceptable” pile. Emmy’s heart breaks seeing the letters of women in need (women with unfaithful husbands, unplanned pregnancies, and controlling mothers) go into the trash. Mrs. Bird’s old fashioned sensibilities about what constitutes ladylike behavior are leaving all the women with difficult problems out in the cold. Emmy’s inability to let these letters go unanswered endears her to the reader.
Fans of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick or the work of Fredrick Backman will absolutely devour Dear Mrs. Bird. While there are heartbreaking moments and social commentary in this book, as a whole, Dear Mrs. Bird is a lighthearted read that is sure to lift your spirits.
Thank you for reading! If you’ve read Dear Mrs. Bird, please share your thoughts in the comments!