What’s it about?
London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.
Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .
I’d seen some promotional tweets about this book so was delighted to have been sent one, upon request, from Camilla at Pan Macmillan/Picador.
Mrs Bird is quite the character and very marmite, you’ll either love her or…not! Agony Aunt of the 40s she’ll only deal with the ‘nicer’ letters and nothing which involves any impropriety which winds Emmy up and sets her on another path.
This is a great story about the roles women had to play during war time, the power of friendship in the face of adversity and trying to do the right thing, even if that ends up with you being in hot water! Don’t misjudge the cover, as it is set during war time it’s not all sweetness and light!
I thought the writing was very good, apt for its time, and that the author was able to convey the required sense of place and era. It’s so terribly British and stiff upper lipped but I’m not sure on the Capitalisation of Emmy’s Thoughts and Opinions. In places, I quite liked it as it made sentences etc stand out but after a while it did grate a little.
After finishing the book I went on to watch Their Finest on Netflix which is also set at the start of the Second World War. Although it was a completely different story and format, it kind of brought Dear Mrs Bird more alive for me and I could visualise Emmy walking the bombed streets of London.
And then…whilst I was away recently in Suffolk, I visited Lavenham Guildhall, where one of their exhibitions was of WWII items. Some photos are below, again, these reminded me of Dear Mrs Bird. Testament that books and characters stay with you long after you finish the book!
Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 320