Dear Mrs. Bird

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

“Dear Mrs. Bird” is a charming glimpse into the lives of the very young women who kept London alive and ticking during the Blitz.  Its easy to remember this period with its Churchills and Hitlers, but the reality was people just trying to get on with their lives, hanging out with friends, building a career, and falling in love.  “DMB” reminds us that if you were a young woman in London in wartime, you were patriotic, and hard-working for the allied cause, but you were still a young woman.
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December, 1940, World War II is looming large; Hitler and his Luftwaffe are dropping bombs on London every night wreaking destruction and mayhem. “The world has become ugly and mad.”

Told In the first person, Emmaline Lake, thinking she was interviewing for a job that would lead to her ultimate goal of becoming a war correspondent, accepts only to discover that she has once again rushed in without paying attention to the fine print. After all when she saw the announcement in the paper she was just “cock-a-hoop”. Ah, but the job isn’t with The Chronicle as she had thought, but with “Woman’s Friend”. She is to be a typist to “Henrietta Helps”, a Dear Abbey type who has pages of word she finds objectionable and therefore will also only answer the most generic letters with fatuous comments. Well, Emmy has hopes of being a journalist and her best friend Bunty thinks this is surely her first step and it is just going to be grand. “Things had really perked up.” Just delightful.

Unfortunately Emmy has a tendency to disregard the rules and takes matters a step or two out of bounds. She is risking her job, her friendships, everything, and it gets worse. She is thrown over by her fiancée Edmund, and if there is any comfort to be had, her mother reminds Emmy that “men are such fatheads”. Just delightful.  

There is also a strong and important back story and tribute to those women in the Auxiliary Fire Service and the London firemen who responded to the calls of fires and collapsed buildings caused by the nightly bombings. Death and loss is not left out of the narrative, but strengthened by it. Well, that part is not delightful but told with sensitivity.

I loved this book; it made me laugh, sigh, gasp, shed a tear, and have hope. This would have been a great 1940’s movie.

Thank you Netgalley and Scribner for a copy.
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This debut novel is a cross between a blitzkrieg London story and a British cozy, complete with previous century manners and mannerisms. A bit of a historical novel, but with strong themes of women's friendship, changing work mores, journalism dreams, "Agony Aunt" letters during wartime. A light, often amusing tone & well-drawn characters make this a fast, entertaining read. Not really my style, but consistently very well done. Thanks to NetGalley & Scribner's for this advance copy. 3.5 stars
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This was a fun and quick read. The editor was a colorful character and the job that the protagonist finds herself in and her conflict with it made for an interesting read.
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When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Fred Rogers

All in all,  this is a story about the helpers of World War 2 - amongst all the atrocities, there was a bit of light in those who came to the rescue of others. 

The author drew inspiration for the book after finding an advice column in a women’s magazine from 1939 (love this so much!). AJ Pearce has done some beautiful justice to the people who had to experience the atrocities of the terrible bombings in London and the emotions they must have faced and the questions they must have had. 

This is as delightful a book you will find that has a setting of a war. The characters are absolutely charming, you’ll be rooting for them all. And the language is brilliant - I absolutely loved the dialogue between the characters. 

Definitely recommend!

A huge thank you to Picador Books for an advance copy. This book is currently available!
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Emmy responds to an add for a job at a newspaper. She wants to be a war correspondent.  Little does she know, the job is as far a way from the war as can be.  She is an assistant to Mrs. Bird.  Mrs. Bird is an advice columnist.  Mrs. Bird is very strict and meticulous.  She only answers certain letters.  The rest she refuses to even consider. And she has a LONG list of taboo topics. Well! Emmy takes it on herself to answer some of these letters. You can guesss where this leads.  

I love Emmy’s rebellious nature. She has plans to be good but then she just can’t. She tickles me to death.  I love when she gives herself “a stern talking to!”  She is a character after my own heart.  She is not perfect.  She is perfectly flawed! 

This read is humorous but it has its shares of tragedy as well.  Bunty and her fiancé are caught in a bombing and this will rip your heart out.  Would I put this in the same class as The Lilac Girls? No. But, it is a very good read. Actually it is a great mix of humor and tragedy.  You will be laughing one minute and crying the next.  So LOOK OUT!  

I received this novel from the publisher via Netgalley for a honest review.
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3.5-4 stars 

Dear Mrs. Bird is a sweet, charming story; almost saccharine, but nevertheless lovely with a satisfying plot. 

Recommended for readers who liked Letters from Sky by Jessica Brockmole, or As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner, or The Memory of Us by Camille de Maio. It's also reminiscent of shows like "Call the Midwife" and "Land Girls".  

In London during WWII, Emmeline is a young woman longing for a career in journalism, and she unwittingly takes a job as a typist for a brash woman, Mrs. Bird, who writes an advice column for a ladies' magazine. Em takes it upon herself to respond to the "inappropriate" letters that Mrs. Bird refuses to answer, getting more and more daring and ultimately sneaking them into the magazine.  

Em's self-appointed career as an advice columnist is only part of the story. This book raises some deeper issues regarding women's often overlooked trials during the war. Losing spouses either to combat or desertion, rationing, and the constant bombings throughout the city led to some unprecedented struggles with grief, guilt, and fear. The women left behind at home were told to "buck up" and put on a brave face for the men returning from the fight. They weren't allowed to feel the pain of their fears and sacrifices. Dear Mrs. Bird addresses this issue with finesse around an enchanting story.  

 Many thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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DEAR MRS. BIRD by AJ Pearce is a new favorite for me, for LibraryReads reviewers and for Amazon which named it an Amazon Best book for July 2018.  This work of historical fiction – set in 1940's London – is thoroughly charming and certainly heartwarming.  Emmeline Lake is a young woman with hopes of becoming a War Correspondent, leading her to take an entry level job in publishing which surprisingly involves sorting through letters asking for help. The set-in-her-ways advice columnist, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, has strict rules about ignoring any Unpleasantness so numerous letters involving Affairs, the Change, and possible Pregnancies go unanswered in the Woman's Friend publication. Young Emmy is moved by the letter writers and secretly begins to respond. Simultaneously, Emmy volunteers some evenings at the local fire station and Pearce thereby recounts the horrific impact of the Nazi bombing raids on London. There's an element of chaste romance, too, for both Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, and their heroic beaus. Introspective and observant, Emmy is a spirited character, somehow both wise and naïve, who often needs to "be British and be brave." The Guardian's review calls DEAR MRS. BIRD "as hilarious as it is moving" and, like AJ Pearce, acknowledges the contributions made by women and girls during wartime. Definitely look for the debut novel if you enjoyed titles like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  

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I thoroughly enjoyed Dear Mrs. Bird, and was actually quite surprised by the storyline. I read a great deal of Historical Fiction, and often the storyline falls into a sappy romantic abyss, or is more fiction than history. AJ Peace did excellent, and quite interesting,  research for her first novel. She writes from a different perspective on 'keeping a stiff upper lip' during wartime, specifically during WW2. Keep Calm and Carry On makes perfect sense, however, people ARE human. I'm giving this novel 4 stars for rwo reasons: the cover and the predictable outcome. It's a great book!
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I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence my review.

Historical fiction fans may want to keep an eye out for the new release: Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce, a wonderful WWII novel set in London during the blitz. 

I had to struggle a bit through the first chapter. The protagonist was, at first, too awkwardly perky and naive. But I rapidly warmed to her.

Emmy Lake is doing her part by volunteering to answer phones for the fire brigade at night and working as a secretary by day. But she dreams big. She wants to be a journalist – a war correspondent She believes she’s gotten her big break when she sees a help wanted ad: the newspaper is hiring a “junior.” But when she does get the job, she’s distressed to discover she’ll be sorting mail and typing for the advice columnist at a failing, old-fashioned women’s weekly magazine.

Once this premise is established and Emmy deals with the situation she’s found herself in, the narrative voice settles down and the book takes off.

Emmy is an optimist and she makes the best of an unpleasant situation. Her boss, Mrs. Bird, has ridiculously outdated ideas about what is suitable for an advice column. Nothing about the war or anything hinting about relationships can be addressed. Not many women bother writing to Mrs. Bird, but unacceptable letters far outnumber acceptable ones. Emmy is tremendously upset by Mrs. Bird’s callousness. She wants to help. She starts answering letters and signing them with Mrs. Bird’s name.

Meanwhile, her own life suffers a few bumps. Her boyfriend jilts her. Bombs keep falling. It gets harder and harder to keep calm and carry on. The crises grow more serious and the story’s poignancy increases as the losses hit closer and closer to home.

Emmy’s great fault is impulsiveness and her judgment is faulty at times, but her heart is definitely in the right place. She’s brave, persistent, and loyal. And she and her best friend Bunty amuse and entertain.

The subject matter gets heavy and Emmy does a lot of growing up, but a light-hearted strain runs throughout the novel. Its feel-good ending will make you feel good! I find myself wishing for a sequel.
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Wonderful "up lit" novel! Charming and funny, and historically accurate. Most enjoyable. Reminded me of PBS's Father Brown.
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For me, this was a very interesting read. I love historical fiction and had never read one for this time period. I'm glad I did because it brought home to me what it was (IS) like to live, work and play in a war-torn area of the world. I could never know what living with bombs raining down on me was really like and this author captures exactly what I imagined it would be like.

Some of this book left a bit to be desired since the heroine was so very naive, but that could be because of the time period and that most girls were just not used to being the 'strong' ones yet. And yes, those left at home to keep 'the home fires burning' were just as strong, in my opinion, as the boys defending flag and country.

A happily ever after for some a not so happily ever after for other's -I liked that this romance book showed that not everything was peaches and cream. There were humor and sadness and frustration in this book and they blended nicely.

I may not re-read this book but I certainly would recommend it to those that like historical fiction and especially to those who are younger than I am.

*ARC supplied by publisher.
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Set in wartime London, Dear Mrs. Bird, is about a young woman named Emmy who wants to do something to help out.  She answers a newspaper ad for the London Evening Chronicle and believes her dreams of becoming a correspondent have come true.  The reality she soon finds out is typing answers to questions sent into Henrietta Helps column in the Woman’s Friend Magazine. Henrietta is the pseudonym for the grumpy Mrs. Bird.  The position does not allow Emmy to have any thought related to the responses but the questions that Mrs. Bird deems inappropriate, Emmy begins to respond to on her own.

This book was well written and a very fast read.  Emmy is a young and likable character. The book takes a serious period in history and is respectful of that time period while also injecting some fun into the mix with the main character, Emmy.  I look forward to reading more by this author.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley. 

Dear Mrs. Bird is a quaint story about Emmeline Lake, a young woman living in a London during the blitz who dreams of becoming a serious war correspondent. Emmy lives with her best friend and volunteers at the fire brigade answering calls and dispatching firefighters. One day she sees an ad for a job opening at a magazine, only to find out after she’s hired that the job is not for the magazine she thought, but for Woman’s Friend. She is hired to be a junior secretary for Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist who has been asked out of retirement to reprise her role at the magazine. Emmy’s job is to read through the mail, and pick out the letters that Mrs. Bird feels are appropriate for their readers. Nothing involving sex, marital relations, politics, or illegal activities are considered fir publication, and Emmy is instructed to destroy those letters. Emmy soon discovers that a vast majority of the letters involve relations with the boyfriends and lovers from women who are left at home while their husbands and fiancés are off fighting the war. Emmy feels a close connection with these women, and decides that she will respond to a letter directly, without Mrs. Bird knowing. 

From this point, the story is fairly predictable. I enjoyed it, although there was never anything that really grabbed me and sucked me in. The characters were well developed and believable. Ms. Pearce did paint a realistic picture of a what life was like in London during the Blitz, but I still can’t imagine how hard it was to just survive the day to day. Women of that generation were truly heroes who not only kept the home fires burning, but filled the factories and took care of everything back home. 

As a fan of historical fiction, especially WWII, this book will be on my list of recommendations. It is well researched and executed. Thank you NetGalley for providing me with the ARC! (less)
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Dear Mrs. Bird is the story of plucky heroine Emmaline Lake, who dreams of becoming a war correspondent but mistakenly ends up with a job as a typist for a women's magazine -- a magazine which tends to feature pieces on cooking, sewing, and romantic fiction. Part of Emmy's job is to sort the incoming letters addressed to Mrs. Bird, the fiercely old-fashioned "editress" who won't tolerate letters on forbidden topics (such as love, marriage, or intimacy), and whose main advice to readers seems to be to buck up and stop feeling sorry for oneself.

Emmy feels compassion for the writers of these ignored letters, and despite being young and inexperienced herself, decides that these women clearly need someone to respond and encourage them. She begins secretly corresponding with the letter writers, sending them letters back offering warmth and practical guidance, and even dares to sneak a few of the Unpleasant letters and her responses into the printed magazine, knowing that Mrs. Bird never reads the finished product.

Meanwhile, Emmy works as a volunteer for the fire service, answering the desperate phone calls that come in reporting fires during each air raid, and is determined that she must make a meaningful contribution to the war effort. Despite the horror of the bombings, Emmy manages to enjoy life as well, living with her best friend Bunty, celebrating Bunty's engagement, and even meeting a charming young man of her own.

Things go wrong, of course. Emmy's life is thrown completely off course by one particularly horrific air raid... and as expected, her secret life as an advice columnist can't stay secret forever.

I really enjoyed Dear Mrs. Bird for its breezy, "keep calm and carry on", chin-up tone, blending a sense of fun with the knowledge that the war is ever-present and ready to steal away one's home and friends and family. Emmy is an engaging main character, a little naive but always well-intentioned. She doesn't always make the best choices, but her heart is in the right place, and she's completely devoted to her friends and to her country. It's lovely to see Emmy's compassion for the sad, worried letter-writers -- she understands that they write to "Mrs. Bird" because they have no place else to turn, and she takes it upon herself to make sure that they're heard and given some measure of practical guidance and hope.

The bombing of the Café de Paris, a key turning point in the story, is a true event, and that makes it even more powerful in the context of the book. It's but one horrific incident in the London Blitz, but it serves to illuminate the personal tragedies and the immediacy of the destruction experienced by the people of London during that awful time. In Dear Mrs. Bird, the author shows the uncertainty of living daily life, going to work and going out with friends, knowing that on any night when the skies are clear, the world may come crashing down around you.

I did wish for a little more at the end of the book. I would have liked to know what happened next, and how the remainder of the war years went for Emmy, Bunty, and their circle of friends. Likewise, while there's a resolution for the plot about Emmy's secret letter writing, I wanted more -- how did it work out? What happened next? I guess that's a pretty good sign that the book captured my interest!

The other element I wished for a bit more of was the letters themselves. There are several featured throughout the book, but I think the storyline and Emmy's input would have benefited from even more -- more letters, more of Emmy's responses. The author's note at the end of the book is fascinating, as she discusses being inspired by the advice columns from women's magazines of the era. It's hard to imagine, sitting here in our relatively peaceful times, that columns such as "Dear Abby" would be filled with letters not just about romance and dating, but about the difficulty of falling in love and raising children while bombs are falling and one's loved ones are off on the front lines.

Dear Mrs. Bird strikes a balance between plucky optimism and can-do spirit and the sorrow and worry of life on the homefront while a war rages on. It's a tough tone to maintain, but author AJ Pearce pulls it off beautifully. I was engaged by the plot and the characters, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with Emmy. It's a quick read, and highly recommended!
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An intelligent and touching story from the start. Young Emmeline Lake is a charismatic character, a dreamer who wants to become a Lady War Correspondent. After Emmy fails to ask the right questions during a job interview at a newspaper, she finds herself  in a job as typist for a wacky ‘Dear Abby’ type who refuses to respond to help letters that include any 'unpleasantness'. What constitutes unpleasantness? Suffice it to say that it is a long list and very few problem response letters  will be written. One of my favorite things about this book is when it revolves around this letter writing as Emmy takes matters into her own hands to secretly respond to readers.

Delightful British humor and whimsical sayings are peppered into this story that provides ‘jolly good fun’! I enjoyed the mix of  supporting characters like the eccentric Mrs. Bird and best friend Bunty, a gutsy free spirit and most loyal friend one could have.

As much fun as this book is, there is also a streak of melancholy beneath the humor as  characters put on brave faces masking frazzled nerves. With the males off supporting war efforts, women/children live amidst air raid sirens and bombed-out neighborhood buildings in1940’s London during the assaults of Hitler in WWII.
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The first half of the book is delightfully funny even during blackouts, bombing raids, the efforts of the Auxiliary Fire Service to rescue those in blasted buildings and keep London from going up in flames. The stiff upper lips and “keep at it” attitudes without that most abhorred of all things – Making a Fuss – are a bracing reminder of how things were. 

The problems that drive the letters that call to Emmy to Do Something range from silly – my husband doesn’t want me to cut my hair as he admires Dorothy Lamour – to heartbreaking. Emmy’s nascent romance with an Army Captain charmed my stockings off. Her day-to-day work at the magazine with the starchily hilarious but deeply caring Mr. Collins is a joy. Mrs. Bird – well brave men quaver in fear of that lady. 

I knew eventually things would catch up with Emmy and when they did, the story moved into a deeper layer of emotion. Emmy does some growing up and soul searching as she grapples with continuing her letter replies and faces a tragedy. Emmy might not always make the best choices but she stays herself and acts true to character. Even as things go pear shaped, I couldn’t have seen her doing any differently. I would have liked to have seen, and was surprised that I didn’t, her parents and brother weighing in during the Last Bit of Unpleasantness. Also the book ends on a positive note but with unresolved issues. Perhaps that means a there will be more adventures in a second book for Emmy and the others? Yes, please I hope so. A-
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This first novel by AJ Pearce is a delight. It has everything I love in a book, a quirky yet lovable heroine, good friends, World War II England, and the world of women’s magazines including the always included advice column. 

Pearce does a deft job of detailing the struggles of World War II while also showing that life had to proceed despite the challenging circumstances. The dialogue flowed well, and it was easy for me to feel the characters coming to life as the chapters unfolded. And while the backdrop to the book was the war, there are many joyful moments made even more so considering the era,

I was sad to see this book end. I hope that AJ Pearce is busy writing another!
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Somehow Dear Mrs. Bird manages to combine the genres of WWII historical fiction with light, "beach reading." As the novel is set in London during WWII, the subject matter is heavy but the style of writing and the characters offer a light, quirky, and even whimsical nature to the novel. In this sense, Dear Mrs. Bird is unlike any book I've read. I found that the tension of a war time novel feeling so light and quirky worked against my like for the protagonist. I did, however, have fun with all the colloquialisms used throughout the novel. The language used and style of writing caught me off guard and added to the light, "beach read" feel of the book. Overall, I'd suggest to read Dear Mrs. Bird when you're wanting to read something light and quirky and if you're a fan of historical fiction.
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Dear Mrs Bird was a really fun book to read. It had the perfect balance of light hearted fun reading combined with the heartbreaking tragedy of war. I liked that the author shined the light on the women who were at home who helped keep the jobs filled for the men while they were off fighting. So many don't know about what all the women did to keep everything running smooth. At times it was funny and I laughed then I got a dose of heart break and sadness. I really enjoyed the strong women characters (and all the the characters!) the story line and the author. I really hope ( fingers crossed) that AJ Pearce continues to write because I will read anything she creates after reading this gem!
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