Dear Mrs Bird

Written by A. J. Pearce
Review by Sallie Anderson

London, 1942. Emmy Lakes is an eager young woman who aspires to be a journalist tackling the hard issues of the day. She shares a flat with her best friend, Bunty. The women work during the day and volunteer with the Auxiliary Fire Service at night. The story begins when Emmy lands her dream job, only to discover that she is the assistant for an Agony Aunt column, not a lady war correspondent. The column is bland and unhelpful because the Aunt, Mrs. Bird of the book’s title, refuses to respond to unacceptable letters. These include letters that highlight women’s concerns, ranging from flirting to unplanned pregnancy to grief over loved ones killed in action—all topics considered off limits by Mrs. Bird. Restless Emmy takes matters into her own hands, secretly replying and eventually sneaking her own unacceptable responses into print.

London during the Blitz is a well-worn setting, but Pearce successfully brings a fresh perspective by placing Emmy, Bunty, and their concerns centre stage. The women are charming. Their stories weave together episodes of romance, family and friendship set against the pressures and tragedies of German air raids.

This is Pearce’s debut novel. Inspired by actual Agony Aunt columns from wartime magazines, she’s given us a fun read, although at times I found the non-stop ‘jolly’, ‘blimey’, and ‘I say’ in the dialogue distracting. She’s attracted a two-book deal and a big marketing plan, and the international rights were snapped up, so expect Emmy and her jolly adventure to make some noise.