The Richard & Judy Book Club Pick and Sunday Times Bestseller.
London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.
But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she must help and secretly starts to write back – after all what harm could that possibly do?
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.
This delightful novel transported me to 1940s London – a time of the dichotomy of being surrounded by the devastation and fear of the raging war versus the mundane ordinariness of daily life. The rich descriptive prose painted a vivid picture of the era that had me fully absorbed in the story from the first page right up to the last.
Emmeline Lake dreams of being a Lady War Correspondent so she is thrilled when she is offered a job with The Evening Chronicle. She’s finally on her way to doing what she’s always wanted to do. But on her first day she is horrified to discover she isn’t working for them, but for Woman’s Friend, a weekly magazine owned by the same publisher. Being a typist for agony aunt Henrietta Bird is not the job she wants at all but she decides to make the best of it.
But she is soon left feeling despondent about Mrs Bird’s rules that mean she isn’t helping those who are most in need. Any letters containing unpleasantness are to go straight into the bin, but Emmeline can’t bear the thought of people in need being left without assistance so she vows to secretly write back. Though she knows she’d be fired if she was discovered, she is sure that nothing can go wrong.
This delicious story was just what my spirit needed earlier this year when I immersed myself in it’s pages. It still lingers in my mind eight months later and is one of the most engaging, funny, uplifting and tender books I’ve read this year. It is both harrowing and hopeful, portraying the stark reality of war but remaining focused on things like small acts of courage in the midst of terror and the beauty and solace that can be found in friendships and love.
I really liked Emmeline. She was living in a time of great change where women were still expected to fulfill traditional roles but were also carving out careers and working for the war effort. She was likeable, kind and ambitious but although she meant well she has to do things like lie and sneak around to do it and didn’t always make the best choices. Mrs Bird was a formidable, spiky character who was entertaining to read. Her list of unpleasant subjects and words or phrases is so long that I’m amazed there were any letters left to answer.
Dear Mrs Bird is a heartwarming, funny and poignant story that was a joy to read. It is a book I loved from the first pages and would recommend to anyone in need of a book that will make them smile.