It took me a while to get into this book. It’s written as a first person narrative and nearly feels like a journal of a young British woman living in London during WW2. Which is basically what it is: Emmeline lives in London with her best friend Bunty (every time her name pops up I imagined the copies of Bunty, a comic for girls that I would religiously get every week as a kid). She sees an ad for what she thinks is a real step towards her dream job (war correspondent), but when she gets the job realizes she’s actually just in charge of sorting and typing up problem page letters for the very obnoxious Mrs. Bird. Dear Mrs. Bird is a story of growing up in a world at war, where women’s lives were changing rapidly, more rapidly than society was able to keep up with. It’s also a story of surviving WW2 in London amidst terrible bombing and incessant fear of losing a loved one.
I had a hard time with Emmeline’s naivety at first and her constant lack of attention when anyone is talking to her. But as I got further into the book I learnt to love how empathetic she is, how she really just wants to help people, but also how daring and how in charge of her aspirations and dreams she is. It was a slow burner for me, it took me about a third of the book to get into it, and then after that I didn’t want to put it down. I found myself out on a walk with the kids, wondering how Emmy was going to get herself out of another pickle that she had inadvertently got herself into.
AJ Pearce does a wonderful job setting the plot in wartime London, including even the little details such as a popular toilet paper brand, and areas that were heavily bombed at a specific time. The style is very much in tune with the style one would find in correspondence, women’s magazines, and literature at the time. I think it was a huge part of why it took me a while to get into the book, but in the end I actually found that I liked it as it helped draw a picture of Emmy and her personality.
All in all this is a lovely novel, which will have you laughing out loud at times, and also bursting into spontaneous floods of tears in others (no spoilers here but that does happen too so have your tissues handy).
Dear Mrs. Bird will be published on July 3rd, 2018 by Scribner. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!