Dear Mrs. Bird

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

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.
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Princess Fuzzypants here:  Mrs. Bird is the editor and advice columnist for a failing ladies’ publication when Emmy joins her staff in 1940.  To say Mrs. Bird is hopelessly outdated and rigid is an understatement.  She is firmly rooted in Victorian standards so many of the questions that come her way are dismissed as being Unpleasant and good for nothing more than the rubbish bin.
Emmy, who had visions of becoming a journalist when she signs on,  is the guardian at the gate so to speak.  She opens the mail and sorts through what Mrs. Bird might find acceptable.  As a young woman, painfully aware of the issues that confront young people in this time of great turmoil, she is unable to discard them .  She figures if they have the courage to write, they deserve an answer.  Knowing it will never come from Mrs. Bird, she takes it upon herself to answer but signs as Mrs. Bird.
We know things will not go well when her deceit is discovered, as it inevitably is.  Mrs. Bird is livid and wants to prosecute Emmy to the extent of the law.  But in the midst of chaos and betrayal and death, something wonderful happens.  
The reader is treated to a charming story, full of historical detail about people just trying to get on with it when the world seems to be falling about their ears= literally.  As a student of the Blitz, the book recreates that time with colour and detail but never letting the external story detract from the real story.  It is a jolly good read,
I give it five purrs and two paws up.
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A sweet treat of a book, but with appropriately somber moments too.  It is, after all, set in London during the Blitz of  WW2.   The main character is the ever-optimistic Emmy Lake who lives in a flat with her best friend Bunty, and volunteers nightly to answer the phones at the Fire Brigade (a tricky job when bombs are falling all about).  Emmy is plucky and more than a tad flighty, but she's a sweet girl with a kind and generous heart doing her best to be helpful. She dreams of being a journalist (a Lady War Correspondent, to be exact) and "falls into" a job at a women's magazine.  Hoping it to be one step closer to "real" journalism, Emmy takes the position and then, starts responding to the "help" letters -- women writing in for advice.  The only problem?  This is not her job!    The story is all about the predicaments that Emmy faces, many of them self-made, and how she manages to "Keep Calm and Carry On" in spite of the calamity's happening all around her.   To be honest, it was a bit on the treacly side, but readers will love Emmy Lake.  She reminded me of Anne Shirley, if Anne were in London and not Green Gables.   I will be recommending this book for sure!
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5 incredibly enthusiastic stars for Dear Mrs. Bird.  

I fell in love with Emmy, Bunty, and all the other characters in this story and when I realized I'd turned the last page, I was truly disappointed to be leaving their lives. I went into this book thinking it would be light and silly, and parts of it definitely were. But what I didn't expect (and was delighted to find!) were the layers of depth beneath the top floofy veneer.

Emmy, like other young women in London of 1940, is Doing Her Bit for the war effort by juggling a job, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services, and, you know, dodging bombs in nightly raids on the city by Germans. Filled with daring and adventure she responds to an ad at one of the local newspapers thinking it will be the first step on the path to her dream of becoming a Lady War Correspondent. 

She lands the job only to discover that instead of writing hard-hitting news articles, the position is assisting Mrs. Bird, a rather grumpy advice columnist who doesn't believe in giving advice for any topics on a rather lengthy list of Unpleasant Things. As Emmy reads through the letters from women in the mailbag to find the few that Mrs. Bird will answer, she realizes some of these women have serious problems, often terribly exacerbated by the living in wartime conditions. Heart broken by some of these letters, Emmy takes things into her own hands and starts to secretly reply to some of the letters.

AJ Pearce has written a story that fully immerses you in the time period without reading like a history book and without being as dreary and depressing as something like Atkinson's Life After Life. Each of the characters has a true personality, and the story is very compelling -- I had trouble putting this book down because I wanted to keep reading. My only complaint is that there isn't a sequel that I can dive into right now -- I want more of Emmy and her pluck.

Badass Female Character score:  All. The. Stars. -- Emmy is strong and capable, and all the other female characters presented in this story are doing their darnedest to Keep Calm and Carry On no matter how hard the circumstances make it to do just that.

Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada, and the author for providing me with a free DRC of this lovely book.
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Oh, do you know that delicious thrill you get a few pages into a new book - just knowing that it's going to be an absolutely wonderful read? That was the case with A.J. Pearce's debut novel - Dear Mrs. Bird.

I loved the cover - those typewriter keys, colours and fashion style set the stage for the story within.

1940 London, England. With the war raging, everyone must Buckle Down and Do Their Part. Emmy Lake volunteers as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. She dreams of being a Lady War Correspondent as well. When she sees an ad for a position with a newspaper, she leaps at the chance. She gets the job, but it ends up being a typist position for an advice column in a women's magazine - Dear. Mrs. Bird. "Finally I gave what I hoped was a plucky Everything Is Absolutely Tip Top Smile. I had taken entirely the wrong job." Mrs. Bird is quite strict about what should be published - there is an Unacceptable Topics list. But Emmy feels bad about those whose letters go unanswered. You know what's coming next, don't you? Yes, she begins to reply..... (And before you think I've made some mistakes with capitalization in this post  - they are part of Emmy's inner dialogue and denote important information.)

Pearce has created an absolutely delightful character in Emmy. She's plucky, irrepressible and so darn likeable. The supporting cast including best friend Bunty, and the magazine staff are just as well drawn. Mrs. Bird is in a class of her own.

Pearce has captured the stalwart attitude of the Brits in the war years. "My mother steadfastly referred to the war as This Silly Business, which made it sound like a mild fracas over a marmalade sponge." Pearce's descriptions of  a London being bombed nightly, the damage, the loss of life, the rescue workers and more paint the backdrop of this tale and underscore the reality of those war years.

Dear Mrs. Bird had me laughing out loud many, many times. As the book progressed, things did take a more serious turn. And I couldn't stop turning pages. I was so invested in Pearce's tale. I loved reading the letters, from the advice column as well as those Emmy writes to friends and family. Letter writing is such a lost art nowadays.

Pearce says 'the inspiration for Dear Mrs. Bird began when I came across a 1939 copy of a women's magazine. It was a wonderful find - a glimpse into an era and world where I could read about everything from recipes for lamb's brain stew to how to knit your own swimwear.""Many of the readers' letters in Dear Mrs. Bird were inspired by the letters and advice, articles and features printed in those wartime magazine. I found them thought-provoking, moving and inspirational, and my admiration for the women of that time never stops growing....It is a privilege to look into their world and remember what incredible women and girls they all were."

I absolutely adored Dear Mrs. Bird and I know you will too - definitely recommended.
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I didn't finish this book. It wasn't for me. I love historical fiction but for me the casual tone just didn't work in this setting. It seems like a lot of people loved it though so perhaps I'm an anomaly!
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Thank you, Net Galley, for providing an advanced copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Emmeline Lake is a young woman at the beginning of World War II. She is doing her part in support of the war effort, but her greatest wish is to become a war correspondent. She jumps at the chance for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, only to learn that she will be a typist for an advice columnist, Mrs. Bird, who refuses to address any enquiries that she considers unpleasant. Emmeline begins to write back to readers who have written for advice.

I loved this book. It was funny, and it was sad (after all, it was during war time). I felt like Emmeline was telling me her story personally. Pearce did a great job in capturing this 23-year-old woman's voice. The story is about friendship, continuing on after facing hardship, and reaching out to strangers, despite this very dark period in England's history.
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Please see the following link for my blog's review of Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. https://wordsofmysteryblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/book-review-dear-mrs-bird-by-aj-pearce/
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I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky novel about a ww2 advice columnist with Attitude and the young assistant who had her own voice to be heard. What an original way of considering the human challenges of wartime.
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What a delightful read! The characters are likeable and real. The book cleverly creates a feeling of foreboding with the potential for disaster always present, probably how it felt to be living in wartime London. But our characters are optimistic and unsinkable, soldiering on and living their daily lives, including the reader in their adventures. Perfect for the beach or curl up in front of a fire with a big mug of tea and enjoy!
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A charming read that gives readers a glimpse of WWII life in London for young, unmarried  women. The advice column premise intrigued me and kept me reading, however, as the novel became more about the main character’s life I found myself skimming. While I did find the book a little slow at times, I think it would make a great movie.  Overall, I enjoyed this novel and will keep my eyes out for other books by this author.  
Thanks to AJ Pearce for the glimpse of WWII life and to Simon and Schuster Canada and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy.
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I loved the light heartedness of this book despite it taking place in London during World War 2! 

Emmy is a 22 year old who desperately wants to be a war correspondent. When she sees an advertisement looking for a junior reporter she immediately applies but is shocked when she finds out that she will be a junior reporter at a women’s magazine. Mrs. Bird is the editress of the magazine and is very strict regarding the type of content that she will publish and will not address anything that is “unpleasant”. Emmy is tasked with typing the question’s the readers have asked Mrs. Bird and her responses to be published in the magazine. Emmy feels sorry for many of these ladies writing in as they are dealing with their spouses away at war and want answers as to how they should best handle these situations. Emmy takes it into her own hands and starts to mail responses to these women on the magazine's letterhead and signs them “Mrs. Bird”. She knew she was taking this too far but could not stop and eventually Mrs. Bird finds out when one of these letters gets published in her magazine.

I found myself laughing out loud at the whimsical tone of the book and and all of the characters throughout it. Even when the book turned darker during the second half, the author was able to retain some form of lightness as the characters faced difficult situations.

Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
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I absolutely loved this book.

It's the kind of book that will leave you feeling warm, happy ... delighted.

London, 1940. Emmy Lake wants nothing more than to be a War Correspondent. When she sees an advertisement looking for a junior reporter for the London Evening Chronicle, she immediately jumps at the chance and applies for the job. Only the job isn't to be a War Correspondent, but rather to type up the letters to the agony aunt in a weekly ladies magazine. Not at all what she expected, but she decides to make the best of it. 

Enter Mrs. Bird. She runs her magazine with an iron fist - and doesn't answer any letters that have anything to do with "unpleasantness" - which basically means she won't respond to anything unless it's about doing your part for the war effort. Everything else is considered unpleasant, which makes Emmy's job ever so difficult ... since most letters sent to Mrs. Bird are actually about stepping out with young men, wanting to marry against ones parents wishes, or feeling guilty for being scared during raids. Emmy simply can't abide to not answer all those lonely readers, and so she begins to respond to all those unpleasant letters - sneaking answers into the magazine behind Mrs. Bird's back. The result is a wonderful story about a young lady who just wants to help those seeking advice. While at the office Emmy becomes friends with Kathleen and Mr. Collins - both delightful supporting characters.

This book felt like a cross between Life After Life and The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. It's about people who are doing their bit for the war, it's about looking on the bright side of things when all feels lost. This beauty of this book is not only in the story, but in the characters. All of the characters are wonderful - Emmy, Bunty, William, Kathleen, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bird, Charles, Thelma, etc. 

This is a book about friendships, love, pulling your socks up and supporting one another. It's a feel-good book. A gem. A delight. This book made me smile and left me wishing for more. I loved "Dear. Mrs. Bird" and would happily recommend it to just about anyone I know.

Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada and Scribner for providing me with an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
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This book was good - I felt a little lost like the main character in the beginning, but was richly rewarded in the end. A great book for fans of historical novels and the World War II time period. Some parts were easy to see coming in terms of plot and what would happen, but was all around very captivating and well written.
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Emmeline and Bunty, best buddies along with their boyfriends, always going out together.    Then WWII starts and Em's boyfriend enlists, but Buntys boyfriend is rejected.  He is devasted, but wanting to participate in the war effort, he becomes a fireman.   Emmeline, the main character, dreams of becoming a war correspondent, but after a quick interview in the building of a famous newspaper, she discovers instead that she has taking on a job in a woman's magazine.   Mrs Bird, her boss, is a grumpy, pernicity woman with rigid rules and a very loud voice.!   Em's job is to read help letters sent in by readers, but Mrs Bird will only read a few that don't include anything about sex, boyfriends, drugs, etc, the list goes on.   Feeling sorry for some of the readers EM decides to write back to some herself.   She keeps it a secret, even from  Bunty., until the inevitable happens and she is caught out!        The book is a mixture of love, despair and some humour.    Very well written and a great read.
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A powerful glimpse into what the day-to-day life might have been like in WWII Britain for those having to deal with the bombings.  A little predictable that the best friend's fiance would die, but otherwise a satisfying read.
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Set during the London Blitz in 1940-41, you'd expect a dark and dour novel but this couldn't be farther from the truth.  It was a happy/sad book that highlighted the indomitable and resilient spirit of Londoners during the time, yet cast a keen eye on the devastation of the war.

The story is told from the perspective of a young woman named Emmeline Lake, whose fondest wish is to become a journalist.  In particular, a Lady War Correspondent.  Emmy lives in Pimlico and shares a flat with her best friend in the world, Bunty.

Emmy is famed for her 'plucky' outlook. She works answering phones for the Fire Brigade. This is no easy task as the Luftwaffe's bombing of London during the Blitz ensured that there were myriad fires, accidents, and injuries every single day.

When she gets an interview with the London Evening Chronicle, she is over the moon with anticipation. However, she finds out that the job is not with the newspaper, but rather it is with the magazine "Woman's Friend" which has its offices in the same building.  Still working her post at the Fire Brigade, Emmy begins working as a typist for "The Women's Friend" in January of 1941.

Her job is to screen the mail received by agony aunt Mrs. Henrietta Bird and choose those that Mrs. Bird is likely to answer.  These are few and far between as Mrs. Bird will not reply to letters about adultery, politics, divorce, intimacy, and any other topic she saw as weak.  Even the replies that Mrs. Bird does write are very brusque and unsympathetic.

"A step too far - A catalogue of deceit"

Feeling sorry for the countless letters that didn't pass muster by Mrs. Bird, Emmy begins to answer them herself.  Her heart breaks for the desperate predicaments of the letter writers.  Her big mistake is that she writes her replies on "Women's Friend" stationery and signs them "Mrs. Henrietta Bird".

"The moon was lighting up London for the Luftwaffe and they were taking full advantage of it."

When Emmy's friend Bunty gets engaged to one of the Fire Brigade firemen, the girls are joyous.  It is so nice to have something 'good' to look forward to.

The Blitz leaves no one unscathed. Emmeline lives her life with a mixture of pluckiness, bravery, guilt, concern, and resilience that is a tonic to read about.  Tired, so tired, Emmy bravely continues on with her two jobs. "I willed the lift to get stuck so I could sit on the floor and nod off."

"Dear Mrs. Bird" was a fast read. Though I don't recommend you read it in public, lest you embarrass yourself either laughing or crying. It reflected an accurate and well researched portrayal of what life was like living in London during the Blitz.  The constant bombing and devastation, the rationing, the losses.... AND the stoicism of the people who valiantly tried to maintain a positive outlook while there was little to be positive about.

The story was written with a kind of innocence. Emmy was very young, so she had a young person's righteous and innocent world view. Her experiences were daunting, yet she remained true to herself and the people she loved.

Yes, along with some laughter, there were many tears shed IN the novel, and, I might add, ON the novel (there were parts where I blubbered like a fool). Written with warmth, empathy and humor, A.J. Pearce's debut is a resounding success. I hope you'll read it for yourself and see.  
Highly recommended.
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Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

From the dust jacket: “London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.”

I loved this book so much! Emmy is such a fantastic character – and so is Bunty, of course!

Mrs. Bird’s list of Unpleasant topics (as mentioned in the above description) is ridiculously Victorian:

“Topics That Will Not Be Published Or Responded To By Mrs. Bird
(NB: list is not exclusive and will be added to when required)
Marital relations
Premarital relations
Extramarital relations
Physical relations
Sexual relations in general (all issues, mentions, suggestion, or results of)
Illegal activities
Political activities and opinions
Religious activities and opinions (excl. queries regarding church groups and services)
The war (excl. queries regarding rationing, voluntary services, clubs, and practicalities)
Cookery”

All letters on Cookery are to be forwarded to a Mrs. Croft who runs the What’s In The Hot Pot? feature, all others on the list are to be cut into pieces and thrown into the trash, which is incredibly harsh. Luckily, after reading some of these so-called capitol U “Unpleasant” letters, Emmy agrees with me. It’s just wrong not to give some kind of advice, support or solace to people who write in baring their souls and confessing their innermost secrets.

And can I just say that Mrs. Bird has made an art of victim blaming? She’s terrible. The way she reacts to letters that she considers “Unpleasant” is just awful – even the way she reacts to some of the letters she does deem worthy of a response is very much full of blaming, shaming and callous most of the time. I would not want to go to her for advice.

After reading a letter by a seventeen year old girl (“In a Muddle”) who (along with her friend) may be getting into “trouble” with some boys in in the Navy, Emmy can’t bring herself to cut the letter up and bin it, instead she puts it in her drawer, knowing that she can’t deny this poor girl some advice. The moment where Emmy reads the letter and decides not to cut it up really touched my heart.

As a grown woman who was once a very scared and confused young girl that needed advice and help so desperately that she wrote in to an advice column (I still have the typewritten letter I got back from Abby of “Dear Abby” fame), I know how much it means to be listened to when you reach out for help and advice like this. Feeling like you are being heard is a very powerful thing. Sometimes people don’t know where else to turn and that’s why these types of advice columns, as silly as they may seem, can actually be a very wonderful thing. The fact that Mrs. Bird would refuse to look at letters that she judged unworthy or unpleasant for whatever reason just made me sad and angry, and Emmy’s realization that sometimes these are the people who need help the most made me love her all the more.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book or the plot, but as I said, I loved this book. It was such a fun, engaging and heartwarming read and I wished it would never end so I could stay with these characters longer. AJ Pearce’s writing style was excellent – wonderfully funny, charming, sweet and touching, the book moved at a quick pace and I didn’t want to put it down.

Reading Dear Mrs. Bird also made me feel somehow closer to my relatives living in England during the war, like I was getting a glimpse (albeit a fictional one) of what their lives might have been like during that period. Somehow this book manages to be as comforting as a warm hug, even with the war raging, Mrs. Bird’s awfulness and all the other trials and tribulations throughout. AJ Pearce has created some truly lovely characters in Emmy and Bunty, their friendship is so sweet and they’re the kind of girls I would love to hang out with.

I’m so happy to learn that Dear Mrs. Bird has been optioned for television, because I think it will make a wonderful film or television program and I’m really looking forward to seeing it on screen! We need more female driven films and tv shows, and I think that Emmy and Bunty are wonderful characters and that Dear Mrs. Bird will translate beautifully into television.

Congratulations to AJ Pearce on a great book and all the well-deserved success it has been having!

This is definitely a book I will be buying a copy of for myself, because I know I will want to reread it often! And I’m really looking forward to seeing what AJ Pearce writes next!
I just can’t say enough good things about this book! I’m so happy that I got a chance to read it! Huge thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and AJ Pearce, I feel so honored to have been given the chance to read this advanced copy!
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This book was a total change of pace for me and what a welcome one it was. 

Dear Mrs Bird captivates and portrays wartime London through the eyes of Emmeline Lake . 

This book reels you in, you laugh, you make you cry but most of all you will cheer on Emmeline!

Well worth the read
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  From the publisher --- 														
“A marvelous treat. Charming and delightful.” —Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina
An irresistible debut set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist— a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.
London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.
Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.
Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

What a lovely, enjoyable book!  You and your book clubs will devour this book and talk about it for hours, days, and weeks on end. There are so many layers to this book that will keep you reading way into the darkness of the night...there is no way to put this book down when bedtime comes!  AJ Perce is a force to be reckoned with, fellow authors: please write more books!!!  5 sparkly stars!
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