Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

It’s 1941 and Britain is at war. Emmeline Lake has always wanted to be a journalist and is thrilled when she sees an advertisement in the newspaper for a job at the London Evening Chronicle. This could be her opportunity to become a Lady War Correspondent. How exciting!

To her delight, Emmy is offered the job and arrives at the Chronicle offices ready to ‘sniff out Political Intrigue, launch Difficult Questions at Governmental Representatives, or best of all, leap onto the last plane to a far-off country in order to send back Vital Reports of resistance and war’. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that there has been a misunderstanding. Emmy isn’t going to be a War Correspondent – she won’t even be working for the newspaper at all. Her new job actually involves typing up letters for Mrs Henrietta Bird’s problem page in the weekly women’s magazine Woman’s Friend, which happens to be based in the same building as the Chronicle. Emmy does her best to pretend that Everything Is Absolutely Tip Top (as you can see, she likes to think in capital letters), but really she is devastated. This is not what she had expected at all!

Trying to make the best of things, Emmy begins sorting through the letters, picking out some for Mrs Bird to reply to. She quickly discovers, though, that Mrs Bird has a whole list of words and topics which she considers unsuitable for publication in the magazine. Any letters which mention love, marriages, pregnancies, affairs or romantic relationships of any kind – almost all of them, in other words – must be rejected and thrown away immediately. Emmy can’t bear to see so many readers’ problems being ignored; if only there was something she could do to help…

Dear Mrs Bird was an absolute joy to read from start to finish! I loved Emmy from the beginning and her friendly, enthusiastic narrative voice pulled me straight into her world. She’s such a kind-hearted, well-meaning person, yet she doesn’t always say or do the right thing, which makes her feel very human. The language is perfect for the time period too and I could easily have believed that I was reading a much older book – and as I usually complain about language feeling too ‘modern’, that’s high praise from me!

At first, much as I was enjoying following Emmy’s adventures at Woman’s Friend and meeting the other characters in the story – who include her best friend Bunty, her fellow typist Kathleen, and the formidable Mrs Bird herself – I thought this was going to be a very light-hearted, cheerful novel despite the wartime setting. However, in the second half of the book there’s a noticeable change in the tone, as the bombing raids on London become more frequent and more ferocious. There’s drama, there’s tension and there’s heartbreak…but there’s never too much of any of these things and the book never loses its charm and its warmth.

Dear Mrs Bird is a lovely book and I was pleased to discover that there is already the possibility of a television adaptation. It will be perfect for a Sunday evening, I think. Meanwhile, I highly recommend finding yourself a copy of this book and getting to know Emmy and her friends.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing a review copy via NetGalley.

20 thoughts on “Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

  1. heavenali says:

    This book is definitely on my radar, it sounds like such a heartwarming story. I may have to cave in and buy it soon. Though I have been buying too many books just lately.

  2. joulesbarham says:

    This is a very interesting review, and I would love to read this …dozens of books permitting. With my breakfast I am reading “Radio Girls” by Sarah Jane Stratford, which is set in earlier in the development of the BBC. The language she uses is so modern at times I wince frequently; “on trend” being one howler! So I am really glad that this book uses more appropriate language. I look forward to it.

    • Helen says:

      Radio Girls sounds like such an interesting book – what a shame the language lets it down. I hope you enjoy this one if you get a chance to read it.

  3. aparatchick says:

    Oh, this is right up my alley! I’m so glad you reviewed it, as I hadn’t heard of it before, and must get my hands on a copy now (well, in July when it is published in the US anyway!).

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    I do like the sound of this one. I looked up A J Pearce to make sure the author was female. Do you think she goes by that name on purpose? I would not have wanted to read this if it were written by a male author. Just saying.

    • Helen says:

      I’m not sure…usually when an author goes by initials it’s because they don’t want us to judge them by their gender, but as this is the sort of book you would expect to be written by a woman anyway, I don’t know what her reasons are. It hadn’t occurred to me that AJ Pearce could be a man!

  5. Carmen says:

    This one sounds charming indeed. I was smiling while I read your blurb of the book. I will keep this one in mind if I find it on sale. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Liz Dexter says:

    I saved this review to read when I’d done my own – and I agree with you wholeheartedly – SO charming and so well done with the language (which I’m quite picky about, too). I often shy away from books that seem hyped or really popular at the time but I’m really glad I requested and won this one.

    • Helen says:

      I requested this book a while ago before I realised there was any hype surrounding it and I’m glad I did otherwise I would probably have avoided it.

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