Yours Cheerfully (The Emmy Lake Chronicles 2)

Written by AJ Pearce
Review by Susan Lowell

This charmer of a book is a sequel to Pearce’s bestselling debut novel, Dear Mrs. Bird, and it’s equally delightful. Undaunted by London life in 1941, our heroine, Emmeline Lake, continues her work at a faltering magazine called Woman’s Friend. Providentially, its terrible advice columnist, Mrs. Bird, has moved on to Livestock and Pet, and Emmy inherits the column, renamed “Yours Cheerfully.” But as World War II grinds along, and Woman’s Friend tries to support both the war effort and their beleaguered readers, conflicts arise.

Pearce is a trained historian, and she skillfully illuminates wartime women’s history through the adventures of her humorous, appealing characters, who include a four-year-old fireball named Ruby. By unleashing the Blitz, Hitler hoped to destroy both British manufacturing and morale; women played a major role in defeating these attacks, because they poured into the workforce, while carrying on with domestic responsibilities. The resulting problems sound drearily familiar: lack of equal rights, pay, benefits, respect, union representation, and child care, or “nurseries,” in British parlance. Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, throw themselves into a movement to demand more nurseries. (This is true to history; by war’s end, the number had increased a hundredfold.)

This heartwarming novel moves through laughter and tears, romances and deaths. As she weaves historical events, slang, and popular culture into her story, Pearce brilliantly evokes the era: for example, a salvaged silk parachute becomes a wedding dress… worn over thick woolly underwear. But wedding is followed by parting, and some readers may worry that Emmy’s sweetheart is almost too good to survive the war. We shall see, for Pearce promises to continue the series, which is also likely, in time, to delight viewers of screens big and small.