Title: Dear Mrs Bird
Author: A J Pearce
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
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.
Dear Mrs Bird is a sweet, light-hearted read set in an era I always enjoy reading about – during WW2 – and focusing on Emmy, who lands her dream job on a newspaper, the London Chronicle… or so she thinks! She actually discovers she’s now a typist for a scary, very uptight woman called Henrietta Bird, who has an advice column where she seems to disregard any real reader problems and only answer questions from a very small roster of’ acceptable topics’.
The storyline is fairly predictable in parts but it’s very sweet and is an enjoyable read. It’s a nice, light read – I listened to this on audiobook and thought the narrator – Anna Poppelwell – did a really good job of making the story engaging and relaying Emmy’s thoughts. It’s interesting to read about the different view during the wartime of women and their responsibilities, which comes through strongly when someone’s (don’t want to give too much away) relationship situation changes.
I think Emmy is a very likeable character and there are lots of charming parts to this story; I particularly liked the part towards the beginning of the book, where she remembers something her mother used to say to her: “My mother always said that a lot of men think having bosoms means you’re a nitwit – she said the cleverest thing is to let them assume you’re an idiot, so you can crack on and prove them all wrong”. Absolutely!
Dear Mrs Bird is worth a read if you fancy something (mostly) lighthearted, interesting and definitely sweet!