Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

An irresistible debut 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 Society and Lilac Girls.

 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.

 Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 3rd, 2018
 by Scribner
****

Here is another peer pressure book, I’ve heard so many good things about Dear Mrs. Bird especially when compared to a favorite of mine - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society. Yes, expectation level was elevated here. My biggest fear was that this was too much of a light-hearted book about the War and would it offer the respect due? But on the other hand, I was also looking for something lighter to offset some emotional and traumatic previous reads. It was a horrible time and to trivialize it would be so wrong. I am happy to report any fears were totally unfounded.

I enjoyed reading this one, Emmeline tells of her longing to help in the war effort but somehow lands a job as a typist for an advice columnist - you gotta read the book to see how that happens. Revolving around her friendships, family and the need to do something tangible Emme is taken on a journey, taking risks, going out of her comfort zone and forced to be still. She isn’t immune to the war and the heartache attached.

I liked the authors writing style, the dialogue was engaging and at times witty but will admit that after a while, the phrases in caps were a bit much.

Hats off to AJ Pearce on a solid debut, looking forward to reading more.

I purchased this book from the Simon and Schuster booth at Word on the Street Toronto 2018.