Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
There is so much to enjoy in this original and charming novel! Set in London during the Blitz, Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to remain cheerful, despite the nightly bombings and disruption of life as they once knew it. Emmy would love to be a war correspondent, so when she sees an advertisement for a job in the newspaper for a prestigious publisher of newspapers, she jumps at the chance to achieve her dream. But in her haste to impress at the interview, she doesn’t ask any questions. She doesn’t realise that she is committing herself to something quite different – typing letters for Henrietta Bird, the agony aunt for a failing women’s magazine, which is part of the publisher’s business, but far, far removed from the prestigious London Evening Chronicle that Emmy wanted to work for.
But Emmy rolls up her sleeves and gets on with the job of typing, but she soon discovers that Mrs Bird doesn’t respond to many of the letters. If there is any hint of Unpleasantness, the letters must be cut up immediately. But Emmy finds herself worrying about the women who write in with tales of grief, indecision, failed love and other real-life problems, and she decides she will take matters into her own hands and write to these individuals to help them. Meanwhile, Emmy has her own personal problems to worry about, as the bombs continue to rain down on them.
I loved Dear Mrs Bird! The characters are truly delightful, and it captures a distinct period in history with such an air of authenticity you feel you are on the bombed-out streets with Emmy, trying to keep cheerful despite the terrible events unfolding. It captures the language of the time beautifully – and I understand the author has collected magazines from this era, which adds to the storyline in the way people think and engage with each other. I feel too often historical novels of this time have too many modern sensibilities – rather than understanding just how much people were genuinely trying to be ‘chipper’ to get through this time. This novel is both funny and very moving, a tale of love and friendship, loss and understanding, and ultimately a book of kindness and compassion.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Macmillan, RRP $34.99