Dear Mrs. Bird
July 3, 2018
“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.
I liked this book very much. Although I think that it was written to appeal to women, I found it fascinating and enjoyable as a male. The author writes very, very well and has produced a novel that is fresh, believable and engaging. I was pleasantly surprised and not only enjoyed the book but I gained a better understanding of this period of history and the important part that women played during the London blitz. It provides a glimpse of the lives, loves and concerns of people left at home during the war.
The story concerns Emmeline Lake, a young woman who is hired by a newspaper expecting that she will be a reporter and correspondent. Instead she finds herself serving as a clerk for Mrs. Bird, an agony aunt who has written an advice column for years. Mrs. Bird is an out-of-touch repressed prude and a harridan. The heroine can’t tolerate her uncaring attitude, inadequate replies and her refusal to deal with many of the problems of the people who write her. In desperation and knowing that she is putting her job at risk Emmeline begins to answer these letters and signs them as Mrs. Bird.
The outcome is delicious, fraught with suspense and ends with a believable satisfactory ending. This book is a good read, interesting and educational. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it.