I first heard of this book from Cirtnecce at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses & Prejudices… She wrote so highly of Dear Mrs. Bird that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a library copy. Three months later, it finally arrived!
It’s London in the middle of the Blitz, and twenty-something Miss Emmy Lake wants desperately to leave her dull desk job and become a War Correspondent. Opportunities are scarce, especially for young women, so when she spies a job opening at The Evening Chronicle, she takes it, no questions asked.
Unfortunately, it turns out Emmy has agreed to become a typist for a ladies’ magazine: Woman’s Friend. The eminent yet stringent editor, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, runs an advice column for women. To her disappointment, Emmy has not been hired to get the scoop on the latest War developments – in fact, her job is merely to type up Mrs. Bird’s responses to readers’ questions, on topics ranging from the absurd to the tragic.
What seems like a simple task ultimately poses a moral challenge. Emmy soon finds herself at odds with her supervisor’s dour, sometimes unkind, advice, while any topics deemed “Unpleasant” remain shredded and unanswered. Meanwhile, developments in her personal life lead Emmy to increased empathy for the writers of “Unpleasant” letters and an overpowering eagerness to help them.
Dear Mrs. Bird is a quite a fun novel, definitely geared towards fans of Downton Abbey and other stories centered on family, friends, and communities facing change. Being a gray-romantic, I actually preferred the plot of Dear Mrs. Bird over your typical Downton Abbey episode, because the author AJ Pearce puts the focus platonic relationships, rather than on romance like Julian Fellowes does. (Romantics need not fear – there’s a healthy amount of it here, but it’s proportional to the story.)
For a first-person historical novel, the characters’ voices were very well written (although, I could have done without the profanity, even if it is era-accurate). There is a ton of 40s slang, which really puts you in the time and place and is fun to read. I felt the characterizations were also excellent – even the scary Mrs. Bird has a soft side for animals, which gives her some dimension. I loved the friendship between Marigold “Bunty” and Emmy, and their camaraderie had me laughing out loud at times!
I had to deduct a star because the main conflict of the story (Emmy’s secret) was resolved so very predictably, and it was kinda cringy that everything turned out “fine” in spite of the fact that it really shouldn’t have. I really dislike stories where the heroine can do whatever she wants and gets away with it…to me, your character loses integrity when that happens. That said, I feel it’s more of a stereotype than a fatal flaw in this book, so I still leave it with 4 stars.
Would consider reading more by this author in the future!