Dear Mrs. Bird, A.J. Pearce
Expected publication: July 3rd, 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 Societyand 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.
After reading that description, I knew I had to pick up Dear Mrs. Bird as soon as possible. A novel set in wartime London featuring a women’s magazine and celebrating female friendships and letter writing, sounded like just my cup of tea. And I’m very happy to say that it was. A. J. Pearce’s debut was a delight to read. It was entertaining and an instant mood-lifter. I hated for it to end, and would love to enjoy a second “cup” of cheer in the form of a sequel.
The writing is accessible and engaging, and I was immediately drawn into the story. It was a joy to spend time with Emmy; she has such a warm heart and it’s impossible not to root for her. The secondary characters are also fairly well-drawn, and I really enjoyed reading about the inner-workings of the Ladies’ magazine, especially the letters that were sent in to Mrs. Bird. Pearce deftly blends humor and heartbreak, highlighting both wartime pluck and wartime horrors.
The close friendship between Bunty and Emmy is beyond lovely. The entire plot of Dear Mrs. Bird is wonderfully centered around female camaraderie and women’s contributions to the war effort. It was refreshing to read a wartime novel in which the romance plays a supporting role to that of friendship. In fact, my assumptions about where the romantic subplot was headed were completely wrong, and Pearce left that thread of the story fairly open-ended.
As someone who loves reading about wartime Britain, I wish there had been more historical detail woven throughout. At times it felt like Pearce relied a bit too heavily on popular perceptions of the era instead of research or facts. Dear Mrs. Bird didn’t offer any new insight into this fascinating time period, but what it lacks in historical depth, it more than makes up for in heart.
Dear Mrs. Bird is completely charming. It is an escapist read full of lovely characters that you will be loath to leave behind. This wartime historical novel is the perfect blend of lightness and darkness, and a delightful reminder to keep calm and carry on when life gets tough.
**A huge thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review**