Podcast LogoPODCAST: On Hiatus - Listen to past episodes
BLOG: New reviews weekly
Exploring great authors, writing, and ideas on a voyage through classic literature - spoiler free!

Review - Dear Mrs. Bird - A Lovely Read for Fall

I first heard of this book from Cirtnecce at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses & Prejudices... She wrote so highly of Dear Mrs. Bird that I couldn't wait to get my hands on a library copy.  Three months later, it finally arrived!


It's London in the middle of the Blitz, and twenty-something Miss Emmy Lake wants desperately to leave her dull desk job and become a War Correspondent.  Opportunities are scarce, especially for young women, so when she spies a job opening at The Evening Chronicle, she takes it, no questions asked.

Unfortunately, it turns out Emmy has agreed to become a typist for a ladies' magazine: Woman's Friend.  The eminent yet stringent editor, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, runs an advice column for women.  To her disappointment, Emmy has not been hired to get the scoop on the latest War developments - in fact, her job is merely to type up Mrs. Bird's responses to readers' questions, on topics ranging from the absurd to the tragic.

What seems like a simple task ultimately poses a moral challenge.  Emmy soon finds herself at odds with her supervisor's dour, sometimes unkind, advice, while any topics deemed "Unpleasant" remain shredded and unanswered.  Meanwhile, developments in her personal life lead Emmy to increased empathy for the writers of "Unpleasant" letters and an overpowering eagerness to help them.

Dear Mrs. Bird is a quite a fun novel, definitely geared towards fans of Downton Abbey and other stories centered on family, friends, and communities facing change.  Being a gray-romantic, I actually preferred the plot of Dear Mrs. Bird over your typical Downton Abbey episode, because the author AJ Pearce puts the focus platonic relationships, rather than on romance like Julian Fellowes does.  (Romantics need not fear - there's a healthy amount of it here, but it's proportional to the story.)

For a first-person historical novel, the characters' voices were very well written (although, I could have done without the profanity, even if it is era-accurate).  There is a ton of 40s slang, which really puts you in the time and place and is fun to read.  I felt the characterizations were also excellent - even the scary Mrs. Bird has a soft side for animals, which gives her some dimension.  I loved the friendship between Marigold "Bunty" and Emmy, and their camaraderie had me laughing out loud at times!

I had to deduct a star because the main conflict of the story (Emmy's secret) was resolved so very predictably, and it was kinda cringy that everything turned out "fine" in spite of the fact that it really shouldn't have.  I really dislike stories where the heroine can do whatever she wants and gets away with it...to me, your character loses integrity when that happens.  That said, I feel it's more of a stereotype than a fatal flaw in this book, so I still leave it with 4 stars.

Would consider reading more by this author in the future!

Comments

  1. A lot of things about this book sound good. World War II era stories always seem to fascinate. I wonder how accurate the slang is. I guess that it would be essential to include that in a story such as this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recognized some of the slang from C. S. Lewis, though whether people actually used it *as much* as Emmy uses it (i.e. almost non-stop), I'm not sure. :)

      Delete
  2. English slang can be difficult to follow, especially the cockney sort... i'll look around for a copy, if i can find one at a reasonable price (grrr)... imo, books in a civilized country would be free...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. New books are always expensive unfortunately. :( Usually I don't read "new" books until they're in the thrift stores or libraries, haha!

      Delete
  3. Hi Marian. This does sound like an interesting read, although too bad about the language. I don't buy that they talked like that back then. My parents are in their eighties and they say only the lowest class used coarse vocabulary on a regular basis and men never used language like that in front of women and women were never supposed to use that kind of language at all.

    I'm reading an interesting book about the editor Max Perkins and he writes about how shocking the language in Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald was to the reading public back then, so probably people were not used to hearing strong language.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting... I wonder if Hemingway and Fitzgerald added it as "embellishment" or if they just moved in different circles than most of their readers. I do think there used to be more dichotomy between literature and real life - Dickens, for example, obviously used some restraint when describing some of the horrors of his time.

      Delete

Post a Comment