Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
When I first saw the advertisement in the newspaper I thought I might actually burst. I'd had rather a cheerful day so far despite the Luftwaffe annoying everyone by making us all late for work, and then I'd managed to get hold of an onion, which was very good news for a stew. But when I saw the announcement, I could not have been more cock-a-hoop.
It was a quarter past three on one of those wretched December afternoons when the day seemed to start getting dark before it had quite made up its mind to be light, and even with two vests and a greatcoat on, it was impossible to get warm. Sitting on the top deck of the number 24 bus, I could see my breath if I huffed.
I was on my way home from my job as a secretary at Strawman's Solicitors and looking forward to a sit down before my overnight shift on the fire-station telephones. I had already read every word of The Evening Chronicle's news pages and was now looking at the horoscopes, which I didn't believe in but thought worth a go just in case. For my best friend Bunty it said, 'You will be in the money soon enough. Lucky animal: polecat,' which was promising, and for me, 'Things may pick up eventually. Lucky fish: cod,' which in comparison was rather a dud.
What lovely debut novel this was! First of all, Dear Mrs. Bird will not be available here in the US until early July, but put this one on your list for sure. It's already out in the UK, so I decided it was fair game to share my thoughts. This was the perfect story to slip between thrillers and more 'serious' type reads. Emmy and Bunty are good friends, best friends in fact. They live in London during the Blitz and life is crazy and exciting and scary. One never knows when a night will be spent in a shelter or when more bombs will drop. Each of them does their part to help out with the war effort. Emmy's dream of becoming an ace reporter is a bit far-fetched, but taking a job with a women's magazine is a toe in the door of journalism. The characters she meets are funny or charming or annoying beyond all measure. Mrs. Bird, the advice columnist, is really something else - like from the Dark Ages. There shall be no 'Unpleasantness' in the letters that she answers in her 'help' column. Emmy tries to follow the strict rules, but her heart is touched and she becomes daring and bold and a bit reckless. And that's all I'll say. If you like a book that will make you laugh, touch your heart, and take you back to an earlier but not easier era, give this one a shot. I liked it very much. Highly recommended for just the right time.
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.