Dear Mrs. Bird: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews


The Guardian says, “A jolly romp through London in the blitz sounds like an unlikely idea for a novel, but Dear Mrs Bird is full of poignant moments that cut through the froth of its narrator’s voice.”  So accurate! (full Guardian review follows)

Emmy’s dream is to become a Lady War Correpondent and she believes she has found the perfect job when replying to an ad in The London Evening Chronicle.  The actual position, however, is for a typist working for the well-known advice columnist, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, who is published in a women’s magazine. Unfortunately for Emmy, her new boss has rigid rules on what she considers Unpleasantness, and therefore consigns the most important and dire letters to the trash bin.  Emmy’s compassion wins out and, unbeknownst to Mrs. Bird, she starts replying to the letters on her own, signing Mrs. Bird’s name.  Dire conseqences!

Meanwhile, Emmy still has her volunteer job as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Service, which is getting nightly action during the Blitz.  Throughout the devastation, the author movingly (and hilariously) reflects the social activities of Emmy, her best friend, Bunty, and her co-workers that seem to frenetically increase in direct proportion to the bombings.

This is a very different book about WWII London, a great debut by AJ Pearce and simply a great read. 

Guardian Review:

"A jolly romp through London in the blitz sounds like an unlikely idea for a novel, but Dear Mrs Bird is full of poignant moments that cut through the froth of its narrator’s voice. Miss Emmeline Lake is a plucky gal who lives in a smart flat with her best friend, Bunty, and dreams of becoming a lady war correspondent. This is a world in which young couples make “a lovely effort to be gay about things”, one’s regiment has “a bit of a time of it”, and Boots in the high street has “taken a biff during the raids”. It’s stiff upper-class lips all round.
Emmy’s journalistic ambitions also take a biff when she accidentally applies for a job typing up letters for a women’s magazine problem page, run by a termagant in a feathery hat. Henrietta Bird issues Emmy with an extensive list of “Topics That Will Not Be Published Or Responded To By Mrs Bird … not exclusive and will be added to when required”, but Emmy finds herself moved by her correspondents’ troubles, and begins, rather rashly, to answer them.
If all this sounds familiar, it may be because Chris Cleave’s excellent 2016 novel, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, starred a plucky young woman called Mary, who quits finishing school to join the war effort only to be palmed off with a teaching job, but finds herself fighting for her winsome charges while also falling in love. Dear Mrs Bird is a far chirpier read. And though at times the book seems like an Evelyn Waugh pastiche crossed with a Radio 4 comedy drama, complete with hilarious misunderstandings and some dodgy dialogue, Emmy is truly charming. When her upper lip finally wobbles, the reader’s will, too.
Several things look inevitable: that Emmy will be won over by a chap; that her sympathetic letter-writing will be Found Out, and that somebody important will get Horribly Biffed by Hitler. But along the way she shows some grown-up insights as well as true grit, and gives a voice to all those women who had to be “chipper and stoic and jolly good sorts and wear lipstick and … not cry or be dreary”. In the end, the novel’s spirit is madly winning, and its foregrounding of wartime women seems spiffingly modern."

— Karen McCue

August 2018 Indie Next List


“What initially seems like a breezy career girl story quickly turns into a gripping novel set in the WWII London blitzkrieg. During the nightly bombing runs, Emmeline volunteers at a nearby fire dispatch center. She dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead lands a day job screening advice-seeking letters for a weekly magazine, Woman’s Friend. All too soon, she and her friends become victims of the bombings and must deal with losses and new horrors each night. In Dear Mrs. Bird, AJ Pearce has given us a most memorable story about both the visible and hidden casualties of war. Recommended for all, including book clubs!”
— Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Description


This charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about a young woman who longs to be a war correspondent and inadvertantly becomes a secret advice columnist is “a jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People)—for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are doing their bit for the war effort and trying to stay cheerful, despite the German planes making their nightly raids. 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, renowned advice columnist of Woman’s Friend magazine.

Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who many have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she begins to secretly write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.

“Fans of Jojo Moyes will enjoy AJ Pearce’s debut, with its plucky female characters and fresh portrait of women’s lives in wartime Britain” (Library Journal)—a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times. “Headlined by its winning lead character, who always keeps carrying on, Pearce's novel is a delight” (Publishers Weekly). Irrepressibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs. Bird is “funny and poignant…about the strength of women and the importance of friendship” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis).

About the Author


AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire, England. She studied at the University of Sussex and Northwestern University. A chance discovery of a 1939 women's magazine became the inspiration for her first novel, Dear Mrs. Bird. She lives in the south of England and is at work on her second book. 

Praise For…


“Perfect wartime details, but it’s the voice that really makes this debut shine. A tragicomedy set amid falling bombs, it’s a jaunty, heartbreaking winner.”
People

“Funny, fresh, and touching, Dear Mrs. Bird is a pitch-perfect pleasure. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to read a book that seems to live properly in its era.”
Annie Barrows, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

“A marvelous treat. Charming and delightful.”
Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina

“A joy from start to finish. Dear Mrs. Bird is as funny as it is heartwarming.”
John Boyne, author of The Heart's Invisible Furies

“Books that make you shake with laughter and sob with tears are rare.  I gulped this one down but didn’t stop thinking about it for a long time.”
Katie Fforde, author of A Secret Garden

“Charming and funny.”
New York Post

“There is more to this very English novel than first meets the eye . . . a delightful read — funny and poignant . . . It is about the home front during war, yes, but even more it is about the strength of women, the importance of friendship and the toll of stoicism.
Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Vividly evocative of wartime life… a very English tribute to the women of the homefront.” —Kirkus

“Fans of Jojo Moyes will enjoy Pearce’s debut, with its plucky female characters and fresh portrait of women’s lives in wartime Britain.”
Library Journal

"Set against a backdrop of war-torn London, this is a charming and heartfelt novel. Pearce brings to life a tale of true friendship, and how love will outlast even the most challenging times."
Booklist

"The sweetest, most uplifting, lovely book about courage, friendship, love."
—Marian Keyes

"Clever... The novel has a wonderfully droll tone, a reminder of the exuberance of youth even under dire circumstances. Headlined by its winning lead character, who always keeps carrying on, Pearce’s novel is a delight."
Publishers Weekly 

"Emmeline Lake, the heroine of Dear Mrs. Bird, is the most endearing character to emerge from the world of British fiction since Bridget Jones. She’s funny, she’s indefatigable, and she faces the worst of circumstances with the pluckiest of resolves. You cannot help but love her."—Kimmery Martin, author of The Queen of Hearts 

"A winning wartime romp, as hilarious as it is moving . . . the novel's spirit is madly winning, and its foregrounding of wartime women seems spiffingly modern."
The Guardian

“Books that make you shake with laughter and sob with tears are rare.  I gulped this one down but didn’t stop thinking about it for a long time.”
Katie Fforde, author of A Secret Garden

“This funny, poignant story set during the London Blitz is already a reader favorite . . . imbued with the voice and attitudes of the war years; it's clear Pearce is an expert in that era.”
—Sarah Smith, Omnivoracious

“Utterly charming and helplessly funny.”
Jenny Colgan, author of The Bookshop on the Corner
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501170065
ISBN-10: 1501170066
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Pages: 288
Language: English
 

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