Picador|5 April 2018 |288 pages|Kindle edition |Review copy|3*
I wasn’t sure I would like Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce because, although it’s historical fiction and one of my favourite genres, it has received so much hype that made me wonder if it was over-hyped and whether I’d find it a bit of a disappointment.
It is written in a chatty style, which makes it a quick and easy read. It’s set mainly in 1941 in London. The main character is Emmeline (Emmy) Lake, a young woman who yearns to be a war correspondent and gets a job on a magazine, Woman’s Friend as she thinks, mistakenly that this will lead to her becoming a war correspondent. However, what the job entails is being a junior typist working for Mrs Henrietta Bird, the agony aunt on the magazine’s Problem Page.
Mrs Bird is a formidable woman who has no time for what she calls Unpleasantness and she will not answer any letters that she considers to be Unacceptable – and there is a long list of topics that come under that heading, mainly anything to do with relationship problems of any kind, religious or political activities or opinions and the war. But Emmy can’t help getting involved and, failing to persuade Mrs Bird to answer the letters, decides to write back herself, and even to publish a couple of answers in the magazine. Needless to say, this is not a Good Idea and she lands herself in all Kinds of Difficulties.
At first I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this book as it comes over as not only chatty, which I liked, but also full of slang – too breezy and clichéd in a ‘jolly hockey sticks’ style with an over-use of capital letters For Emphasis, which I found a bit irritating. But then, as the scattiness of the first part of the book faded somewhat and concentrated more on Emmy’s voluntary work with the Fire Service, the tone changed giving a vivid picture of what life was like during the Blitz. Emmy is a well-meaning young woman, if a little misguided in her efforts to help people, but she tries very hard to correct her errors when things did not turn out as she had hoped. Overall, then I did enjoy it and think it gives a good sense of the times and the realities of the war for the ordinary people at home.
My thanks to the publishers, Picador for my review copy via NetGalley.