Sunday, 3 March 2019

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce - Uplifting Comfort Reading at its Best!

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a truly uplifting book about the courage and fortitude of those living through the Blitz in 1941, told with humour as well as tears.
Emmy, or Emmeline Lake's ambition is to be a War correspondent like those she's read about in the newspapers: brave women who can impartially report on the facts before them without getting involved.
She gets a job at Launceston House, the home of the Evening Chronicle in Fleet Street, thinking this will be her first step to stardom, but the job turns out to be at the foundering Women's Friend magazine upstairs, with the redoubtable acting editress, Henrietta Bird.
Emmy had been so excited at the interview that she didn't listen properly to hear that the job was to sort through the readers' problem letters, and hand them over to Mrs Bird for her to answer, but how was she to become a respected woman journalist doing that?
She is dismayed at all the readers' letters that she has to cut up and bin because of what Mrs Bird calls  'Unpleasantness'. The acting editress will only answer questions about such things as fat arms or chilblains, but nothing at all about any sort of relationship, pre- or post-marital; sex; political or religious activities; or the war, which pretty much covered all the problems that the readers have. So she decides to answer the letters herself in secret which gets her in to all sorts of trouble.
AJ Pearce has drawn some wonderful characters including Bunty, her best friend who works a the War Office, and shares her granny's flat with Emmy; Bunty's fiancé, William, a fireman along with Roy, and Thelma, Joan and Mary who also work on the telephones with Emmy in the evenings at the fire station. But we don't see Edmund, Emmy's fiancé, who is away fighting.
The language, and descriptions of the fashions and wartime London are just right too. My mother was in the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) like Emmy, sending out fire engines as the bombs fell. She didn't tell me a lot about it, not many people wanted to talk about the war, so this book was a chance for me to discover what it was really like.
Louisa Young, author of A Heroes' Welcome, advises that we should immediately catch a cold and retire to bed with this book. And, Dear Reader, I did!
I'm also pleased to hear that AJ Pearce is working on a sequel: I shall have to catch another!! Comfort reading at its best!

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