Dear Mrs Bird

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

Emmy Lake has just got a new job. Unfortunately, it's not the one she thought she'd applied for.

I really enjoyed Dear Mrs Bird. I'm sure its tone and style won't appeal to all but for me it was a breath of fresh air (of the type Henrietta Bird might prescribe in one of her responses to a reader's letter). In fact, frequently A J Pearce made me rejoice that we finally have a creditable female equivalent of P. G. Wodehouse but with far less silliness and much more depth. The humour appealed to me and I frequently laughed aloud, especially at the Capitalized Comments. I could so easily hear Emmy's narrative voice in my head.

All of that said, and emphasising my enjoyment of the humour in Dear Mrs Bird, none of this would have been so effective had it not been for the wonderful balance of the reality of the Blitz in contrast. AJ Pearce understands exactly how to use light and shade in her writing for maximum impact. I laughed aloud on so many occasions but I shed tears too. There's love, fear, grief and true friendship alongside the themes of maintaining a stiff upper lip, loyalty and relationships with a touch of feminism thrown in that make this an absolutely wonderful read.

Emmy is a complete star. Certainly she epitomises what is expected of the plucky, upper middle class girls of the era, which some might find stereotypical, but equally she's foolhardy and rash and quite often blinkered to the consequences of her actions and I loved her for every one of her flaws. She experiences the full range of emotions and I felt them with her. Reading Dear Mrs Bird felt more like hearing my friend Emmy telling me about her exploits and I was invested in each of them.

The plot of Dear Mrs Bird is relatively simple which is where the book succeeds so well because I think it reflects the day to day grind of routines punctuated with terrifying moments endured by so many during WW2 in London. There's a human quality of understanding and poignancy from AJ Pearce that I thoroughly enjoyed and found very touching.

I think Dear Mrs Bird is a book that might initially appear quite superficial but that surprises and rewards the reader in an emotional and thought provoking way. Reading it has made me wonder just what I would have been like as Emmy. The more I read of Dear Mrs Bird, the more I loved it. I really recommend it.
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Dear Mrs Bird is a surprising book.  It starts with a silly, almost twee description of the heroine, Effie who is an exuberant, childish girl with an ambition to be a “Lady War Correspondent” who has a friend called Bunty.  But she doesn’t stay this annoying and gradually matures as she weathers the war.
When a venue is described for a forthcoming outing, anyone aware of the London blitz will be half expecting what happens, but the details in the narrative and the marvellous description of a foray into a residential street shortly after it has been bombed is compelling.  The author thanks those who shared their memories she has clearly researched this thoroughly in painstaking detail.  It was well worth the effort although the story is very slim and the plot is quite insignificant, with the details from the time it comes alive.
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I think I'm going against the majority and say I didn't really like this book. It was an easy read. the narrative jogged along nicely but I found it almost Enid Blytonesque with it's "jolly hockey stick" style diction and plucky heroine - yet another poor, little rich girl. You could see a mile off that Emmeline would start disobeying Mrs. Bird's directions on what letters to answer and how and it just seemed to take most of the book for her to start doing so. I quite likes the description of the blitz and I think the book picked up the pace and interest for me when it became a bit darker in tone but it took a long time to do so. If I hadn't been sent a PDF of the book for review I think I might have given up after a few chapters. Nevertheless, I think this book will be a great success as it is lightweight and easy a decent bedtime read or book to not tax your brain on the train. For me, it was just okay - I loved the cover and liked the premise but it took too long to deliver.
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A lovely read.  Kept me interested right from the start.
Likeable characters and loved the whimsical, witty style that crept into the writing.


Released back in April I have only just gotten round to reading this book. Nothing to do with the book just bad time management on my part.
I found it a heart warming, charming read that had me laughing out loud whilst still dealing with some of the heartbreaking situations war brought to the people of London.
I loved the characters but especially the humorous use of the period vocabulary and social attitudes of the day.
I enjoyed reading about the different friendship groups Emmy had and the different ways they all coped with being in London at this time.
A delightful read that I would recommend.
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Emmeline Lake wants to be a war correspondent, she thinks that she has just landed her dream job .... but that wouldn’t make a good novel. Misunderstandings, romantic adventures and traders swirl around this ideal summer read set in war time London.
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Emmeline and Bunty are best of friends and have been since they were young. It's now 1941 and they live in London. 
Emmy starts writing for a magazine called Women's friend. They give advice to suitable questions. Emmy feels sorry for the other women in the war struggling to cope. Does Bunty agree with what Emmy decides to do. 
The story follows Emmy and Bunty's love lives and heartbreak. They are two strong women in a world changing time.
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I wouldn’t usually pick a book that is based in wartime London. Even when I received it I still wasn’t sure about getting into this book. It’s a nice read but does give off an older writing style feel. I love the characters and within a few pages of meeting them, you can’t help but warm to them. But although I really tried I just didn’t click with this story
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Though heartbreaking at times, this novel was upbeat and ultimately uplifting.   Not at all what I was expecting but all the more exciting to discover a book that is truly different.
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Emmeline has moved to London to help with the War effort but is frustrated working at a solicitors office.  When she sees a job advertised at a publishing company she thinks this is her big break in journalism.  Only after getting the job she realises that she is working for Woman's Friend, failing magazine, and she is annoyed that her boss, the redoubtable Mrs Bird, does not want to sully her problem page with any of the real-life problems affecting woman in Britain in 1941.  Ditched by her fiancee, Emmy decides that she will help these women by impersonating Mrs Bird, but only when tragedy strikes close to home does Emmy see that there may be a different way.

On first reading this book sees like a very lightweight, but entertaining, story about coping in Bliz-ridden London.  However as one is caught up by the frothy prose one realises that there is actually quite a heartfelt tale here.  Women are unsure about their romantic lives in a time when marriages happen in haste and life can be tenuous for those at home and on the warfront.  In an age where discussing feelings is frowned upon the women's magazines are a source of comfort to all.  I was reminded of Waugh when reading this, characters larger than life, dry humour, frothy prose but a meaning as well, a surprisingly good read.
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This was both compelling and cosy. The characters were well-drawn and the narrative was the perfect balance of witty and poignant. The character of Henrietta Bird, herself, was the perfect comedy foil to the more upsetting parts of the narrative. I particularly enjoyed how the descriptions of Wartime London had both detail and vividness. I would certainly recommend this title.
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I went into Dear Mrs Bird with high hopes - life working at an advice column in war-torn London? I am sucker for historical fiction and from the blurb, this novel seemed as though it was going to offer a snapshot into life at an impossible time. And I suppose it succeeded in that. 
Perhaps. 
I don’t know.
The issue is that A.J Pearce tried distractingly hard to ground the novel in this time period. The language, the names (dear god, what sort of name is BUNTY?), the interactions (her attempt at writing a Czech character’s speech was very close to offensive) - I looked up A.J Pearce at the end of nearly every chapter because I couldn’t believe that the person writing it could have ever stepped foot on British soil. It didn’t create atmosphere, or entice the reader into the world, it just made all of the characters seem like irritating caricatures. Every few words a phrase was capitalised - yet another distraction that I assume was supposed to emphasise just how British everyone was.
I mean, seriously? 
I know the English lexicon has changed since the 1940s, but to this extent? Not bloody likely.
Dear Mrs Bird would have been a far easier, and more enjoyable read, if A.J Pearce would have focused foremost on the environment of war-torn London, which should’ve been given far more attention, instead of the sometimes almost nonsensical conversations that its characters had.
Do you know when you have a conversation with someone and you realise at the end of it, nothing was actually said? 
This book was like that, over and over again.
And, to say that the book was about an advice column, I feel as though all of those wasted pages could have been used instead to actually focus on the main character’s work at the magazine, as most of the time spent there was glossed over. And, let’s be honest, I am starting to think that her work there was just a way of introducing a love interest to replace her old one. I know, I know, it’s the 1940’s, but the fact that she NEEDED a love interest, despite the fact that neither of them added anything to the plot, was formulaic and wholly unnecessary.
Dear Mrs Bird could have been such an impactful read, one about women supporting and loving other women, and yet frankly, it failed at every turn.
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Dear Mrs Bird is one of those rare finds.  This book jumped out at me, despite it not being something that I would usually pick.  AJ Pearce's writing skills are on point, the characters are fantastic.  But what I liked most about this book was the empathy I felt towards the setting - London during world war 2.  That for years, people had to  live like this.  Afraid for themselves and for the safety of their loved ones.  A cracking read with fine elements of humour.  A strong contender for best read of 2018
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I really enjoyed this WW2-set novel about a young woman who falls into a job at a woman’s magazine when she’s hoping to be a Lady War Reporter. It’s funny and touching and if I could see one plot twist coming a mile off, I forgave it. Mostly. I would have liked a bit more resolution at the end, but I wouldn’t complain too much if that came in the form of a sequel! If you like Lissa Evans, then this may be for you.
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Dear Mrs Bird is a beautifully written novel about a young girl with dreams of becoming a war correspondent.

Emmeline Lake, better known as Emmy or Em is Marigold (Bunty) Tavistock is working days as a waitress and nights as a volunteer answering telephones for the (Auxiliary Fire Service) AFS, when she sees an advert for a job in a local newspaper office.

Partly through the bumbling, thoroughly unorganised and endearing Mr. Collins who interviews her and partly through her own skim reading of the advertisement, Emmy accepts the job without realising it is for a magazine housed in the same building as the newspaper, Women’s Friend.

Her boss is Mrs. Henrietta Bird, Assistant Editoress of the magazine and a formidable and curmudgeonly woman. Mrs. Bird is the editor of the popular “Henrietta Helps” page of the magazine.

However, contrary to the advice columns of today, Mrs Bird is blunt, borderline rude in her responses and doesn’t respond to many of the letters she is sent.

She in fact has a list of “undesirable” letters that absolutely must not land on her desk under any circumstances. These include tales of affairs with forgeign soilders, unexpected (but not necessarily unwanted) pregnancies and very ordinary marriage troubles.

Emmy thinks it scandalous that Mrs. Bird won’t even acknowledge women in need, let alone answer their letters. So she sees it as her duty, as a fellow, spirited young woman to write back in secret and give them advice.

Dear Mrs. Bird is a delightfully British account of a young girl in war time Britain. There is a very sensitive authenticity about this novel, it tackles some difficult subjects brilliantly, and I just loved the ending. A really lovely novel.
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Imagine applying for a job, being successful only to discover its not the job you thought it was. This is exactly what happens to Emmeline Lake, when instead of landing her dream job as a lady war correspondent, she finds herself working for the formidable and infamous agony aunt Mrs Bird. Who wants to spend their time typing responses to peoples problems, certainly not Emmy, but she decides to make the best of it. And that is what this delightful novel is all about, making the best of a war torn London in the middle of the blitz.

The characters are just wonderful. Emmy and her best friend Bunty are fun loving and vivacious, intent on having fun, but also ensuring they do their bit for the war effort, Bunty working in Government, Emmy volunteering at the fire station as well as holding down her job. They enjoy life to the full, taking the odd risk in the blackout, making light of what would have been a frightening and unpredictable time.

Mrs Bird, Emmy’s boss had me in stitches with her refusal to deal with any letters of ‘unpleasantness’, her advice forthright, the epitome of the British stiff upper lip. I loved her sense of self importance and righteousness and my imagination went into over drive at her dress sense and general appearance.

When Emmy decides to respond to some of the more unpleasant letters you just knew things would not end well and they don’t. Her relationships fall apart and Hitler’s bombing ramps up a gear with devastating consequences. It would have been very easy for the novel to descend into absolute doom and gloom but no, Pearce manages somehow, to maintain a lightness to the story, whilst never detracting from the seriousness and devastation of the Blitz.

The descriptions of war torn London were fantastic. I instantly felt myself transported there wether it be to a street devastated by bombing or a dance hall full of those trying to forget. It was heartbreaking to read of the trauma experienced by many families as bombs destroyed everything, and the bravery of the firemen, risking their lives to free those trapped in rubble.

What was extremely interesting was to read of the role many women had during the war, their lives transformed, taking centre stage as they supported the men at war, took on the jobs men would previously have occupied.

What I loved about Dear Mrs Bird was the perfect balance Pearce achieved between the serious and the fun. It never felt bogged down in the horrors of the Blitz, there was always a light and joyful tone to the writing. My  overriding impression was of being in a 1940’s film, with the unmistakable clipped speech of the characters resounding in my ears as I read.

It was a pure joy to read and I have my fingers crossed that it will be made into a TV drama series, it would make the most perfect viewing.

My thanks to Camilla Elworthy and Picador for a proof copy to read and review
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This debut novel by A.J. Pearce caught my eye immediately, promising a light – hearted and uplifting story, and I’ve also heard many good things about this book already. And it delivered, introduced me to lovely, vivid and quirky characters, and brought back hope for a little humanity. So if you are in need of a little positive vibe, then do not hesitate and try this “uplit” tale of hope, love and friendship in hard times – as “Dear Mrs Bird” was utterly gorgeous, charming and unexpected.

This story is told from Emmy’s point of view and she’s our main character. She’s young but she knows what she wants and right now she wants to be a war correspondent. Due to one mistake, she changes her jobs, thinking she’s going to become a reporter in The London Evening Chronicle. She’ll manage to squeeze her job as a volunteer telephone operator at the Auxiliary Fire Service as well. However, it turns out, that she’s not going to be a proper journalist but a junior typist, typing responses written in a Woman’s Friend Magazine by Mrs Bird. Mrs Bird is a very special character – she’s the only one who’s answering the letters and her list of Unacceptables is longer than Emmy’s arm. So letters including topics such as divorce, affairs, unhappiness land in the bin. Emmy can’t come to terms with this fact so one day she decides to write back to the women who so desperately need a kind word – because I forgot to mention that Mrs Bird’s kindness meant pouring cold water over readers’ heads.
However, that’s not all that’s happening in Emmy’s life, oh no!

I truly loved and adored the characters, and their approach to the War and things happening around. Some of the greatest scenes were when the girls were on duty at the fire brigade, answering the phones during one of the bombing – they were cool as cucumbers and nothing would be able to push their buttons. The way people got adjusted during the War is for me always a thing to admire – they were trying to live as normal as possible. They joked, they went to dances or to the cinema. Of course, the War influenced them in every possible way but still, they didn’t let it to break them, and I truly admired it in them.

A.J. Pearce has transported us in her debut novel to London’s streets during the WWII. She very well balanced humour with sadness, and the novel is both very uplifting and very heart – breaking. It was also provocative, what with the way Emmy decides to take actions in her own hands, however she’s got a full blessing from me personally, as I could really understand where she was coming from, to feel her desperation and knowing what she wanted to achieve – and as a result we got compassionate and realistic correspondence – based on real letters from the Forties, sent into advice columns. They show in a perfect way how the lives of the women were affected not only by the War but also by the hypocrisy of attitudes of those times. I loved the way Emmy was thinking – she knew where the real priorities were and when other people were risking their lives she decided that breaking a rule here or there will be better than letting the real problems stay unanswered.

Despite being set during London Blitz, it was a fluffy, charming and optimistic read. The author not only shows the optimistic side of the characters, but she also shows how the war affects them. She juxtaposes the relatively colourful world of Woman’s Friend Magazine and the blackness of the wartime events, showing the bravery of people working or volunteering for fire brigade, describing their feeling when faced with bombings and their victims, with shortages and upheaval. I really enjoyed this book and I’d urge you to try it for yourself.
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I really enjoyed this book. It's about Emmy a young woman during WW 2 who longs to be a lady war correspondent. She applies for a job with a large newspaper company thinking that soon she'll be posting exciting stories about the war. Instead she finds herself working on an ailing woman's magazine Women's Friend edited by the formidable Henrietta (Mrs) Bird.
Not only is she the editor but she's also the magazine's agony aunt. Trouble is, she only replies to letters that don't mention any 'unpleasantness'. The list of subjects that Mrs B deems Unsuitable is vast and Emmy has to vet incoming post to eliminate anything that will not be answered. She finds this really frustrating and takes matters into her own hands.
The book is a wonderful evocation of the wartime spirit, it will make you laugh and cry and gave me fresh admiration for the brave civilians who lived and kept on going during the war.
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This was such an unexpected delight of a book, all the more so for being light and easy to read yet still giving a flavour of the hardships of life endured in wartime Britain. It was more funny than sad but I was still impressed by the ability of the author to dig a little deeper in a very subtle way. I loved the vintage styling and the focus on friendship and camaraderie - and it actually made a refreshing change to know what was coming most of the time but to still thoroughly enjoy the journey, Just lovely. It really put a smile on my face and I’m looking forward to the TV adaptation already.
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I am in love with DEAR MRS BIRD by AJ Pearce. Brimming with spirit, this moving tale will burrow into your heart and make you feel every emotion possible as you become deeply invested in Emmy and Bunty's lives.

Set during the war, Emmy and Bunty are two best friends who are determined to do their part in the war effort. Volunteering at the fire station, Emmy has dreams of being a journalist, a war correspondent doing important and dangerous deeds. So when a job becomes available at a prestigious London newspaper, Emmy jumps at the opportunity. But she soon learns that wires have been crossed somewhere as she finds herself helping the formidable Mrs Bird reply to readers questions for a woman's magazine. This in itself isn't too disheartening if Mrs Bird was willing to help so many women who were lost, scared, or torn during this horrible time, but Mrs Bird refuses to help most of their readers, deeming their problems as unacceptable. Well, Emmy has an idea how she can help even if it could cost her her job and when tragedy strikes, Emmy and Bunty will have to fight even harder for what they believe in.

DEAR MRS BIRD by AJ Pearce is heartbreakingly beautiful and brings the hardships and unbelievable strength of human spirit that existed during the war to astonishing light. Emmy and Bunty are brilliant characters who feel like family almost instantly. During their highs and lows, there is always this core of kindness and strong values that shines through on every page. This story will make you smile and make you cry, and completely hook you from the very first line. If I have one negative thing to say about DEAR MRS BIRD is that I didn't want it to end - I want to know what happens next for Bunty and Emmy and how life turns out for Mr. Collins, Kath, and the gang at the fire station - so I really hope there will be a sequel someday soon.

DEAR MRS BIRD by AJ Pearce is everything you want in a historical novel and more so run out and buy your copy as soon as possible because it is a gem that should not be missed.
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