In my January post I mentioned the wonderful Richard and Judy book bundle that I treated myself to just after Christmas. I promised to write a review of each book but it turns out I’m more enthusiastic about reading the books than writing about them! My aim is to read a book and then review it straight away but every book lover will sympathise with the temptation of instead immediately picking up the next book to read- I can’t resist. So sorry it’s later than planned but here is my review of AJ Pearce’s debut novel, Dear Mrs Bird:
Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back.
Dear Mrs Bird Review
So they say never judge a book by it’s cover but I admit when I had to choose which of these books to read first (it was a difficult choice as I wanted to dive into all of them!) I was persuaded by the artwork. The bright turquoise and orange graphics stood out and the font and stamps design suggested it was going to be going to be a vintage read which the blurb then confirmed. The embossed cover is gorgeous.
Emmy’s story is told in the first person which drew me in from page one. Her youthful enthusiasm is refreshing and it certainly took me back to my days of applying for jobs and dreaming of the future. Emmy’s has a lovely friendship with Bunty, her longtime friend and house mate but sadly this relationship is tested along the way.
I enjoy reading books about life on the home front during wartime. However I also agree with Judy that “there is nothing nostalgic or “period” about this book- part of it’s charm is that Emmy’s and Bunty’s lives have a curiously modern feel: young people are young people whatever era they live in.” Even more curiously one of the letters is sent from a “shy teenager” yet this term- teenager not shy- only came into use later on during the 50’s so we’ll put this down to the author’s poetic license.
Speaking of letters, like Pearce I am also a fan of vintage magazines, comics and annuals. The problem pages are very interesting and a revealing insight into real life during another era. The letters to Mrs Bird are dotted about in this book but I would have appreciated a whole chapter dedicated to a “Henrietta Helps” magazine spread. The letters and replies are often amusing, even when they’re not meant to be! Mrs Bird will not reply to any letters containing “unpleasantness”. When Emmy replies to the women in need, she does so from a good place in her heart and we’re rooting for her. She doesn’t always get everything right but this makes her human and endears her to us all the more.
In this book there is heartache, loss, fear and despair but there is also warmth, humour, love, hope and a strong determination to keep going even when life is tough and bombs are dropping. It’s an easy, comfort read to enjoy over the weekend with an important reminder that even during the darkest of times, the British always looked for the light, a message that is relevant always.
Read Richard and Judy’s review of “Dear Mrs Bird” here: https://blog.whsmith.co.uk/rjau18-richard-and-judy-introduce-dear-mrs-bird-by-aj-pearce/
I’ll link to the podcast once it’s live!
Buy “Dear Mrs Bird”
Buy the bundle of 6 books for £29.99 here: WHSmith Richard and Judy Book Club Bundle
Buy Dear Mrs Bird for £7.99 as part of a buy one get one half prize deal here: WHSmith “Dear Mrs Bird”
Buy Dear Mrs Bird for £4.99 here: Amazon “Dear Mrs Bird”
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Life in a Breakdown