Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird

by AJ Pearce

Hardcover(Library Binding - Large Print)

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Overview

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).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781432853297
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 07/25/2018
Edition description: Large Print
Sales rank: 1,203,385
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Dear Mrs. Bird includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. “There’s nothing that can’t be sorted with common sense and a strong will,” (page 36) begins the description of Mrs. Bird’s column, Henrietta Helps. In theory, that’s not such a bad approach, but how does it fall short of addressing her readers’ concerns?

2. Why does the memory of her friend Kitty’s experience affect Emmy so strongly? How does it inform her actions?

3. Author AJ Pearce incorporates charmingly old-fashioned expressions to help convey a sense of the time period. What were some of your favorite terms? Did the language help your understanding of the era and the characters’ personalities?

4. Mr. Collins advises Emmy, “Find out what you’re good at . . . and then get even better. That’s the key,” (page 54). Is this good advice for Emmy? Does she follow it?

5. Why does Emmy hesitate to tell Bunty about writing to Mrs. Bird’s readers? Is she only worried about Bunty’s disapproval, or is it more than that? How do secrets affect their friendship throughout the novel?

6. Do you think Emmy was right to confront William after he rescued the two children? Was his reaction warranted? Why do you think they took such different views of the event?

7. One of the major themes of the novel is friendship. Discuss Emmy and Bunty’s relationship, and all the ways they support and encourage each other over the course of the novel.

8. After the bombing at Café de Paris, Bunty is distraught and angry, but is some of her critique of Emmy fair? Does Emmy interfere too much?

9. Whether it’s readers writing in to Mrs. Bird, Charles writing to Emmy, or Emmy writing to Bunty, letters are of great importance throughout Dear Mrs. Bird. How does letter-writing shape the narrative?

10. The letter from Anxious on page 239 strikes a chord with Emmy. She thinks, “How often did we say well done to our readers? How often did anyone ever tell women they were doing a good job? That they didn’t need to be made of steel all the time? That it was all right to feel a bit down?” (page 243). How did the book make you think differently about women’s experiences in wartime?

11. Emmy’s mother says to her, “Once this silly business is all sorted, you and Bunty and all your friends will be able to get on and achieve whatever you want” (page 86). How much do you think expectations have changed for young women since World War II? What careers do you think Emmy and Bunty would aspire to if they were young now?

12. In the Author’s Note (page 277), AJ Pearce describes how reading advice columns in vintage magazines inspired her to write Dear Mrs. Bird. She says, “I found them thought-provoking, moving, and inspirational, and my admiration for the women of that time never stops growing. . . . It is a privilege to look into their world and remember what incredible women and girls they all were” (page 278). Discuss how magazines, then and now, provide a unique window into people’s lives.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Discuss advice columns as a group. Do you read them? Which ones? What are some of the group’s favorites? Bring some advice columns in and discuss them together. How would you write an advice column?

2. On pages 204 and 205, Emmy describes seeing propaganda posters meant to motivate and boost morale on the British home front during the war. Visit the Imperial War Museum’s website to see examples: www.iwm.org.uk/learning/resources/second-world-war-posters.

Customer Reviews

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Dear Mrs. Bird 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WONDERFUL STORY OF WWII IN THE UK AND HOW THOSE BRAVE SOULS COPED
gaele More than 1 year ago
A Favorite! Emmeline Lake has had one goal since childhood: she wants to be a Lady War Correspondent and make a difference. Engaged to her childhood boyfriend, sharing a flat with her best friend Bunty with whom she shares everything, the two are working and ‘doing their part’ for the war with Bunty at the war office and Emme working for a solicitor, but volunteering with the Fire Auxiliary on overnight shifts as they dispatch fire and rescue crews throughout London after bombs are dropped. Desperate to be ‘in journalism” she catches a small advert for the publisher of the London Evening Chronicle and her imagination, and hopes run wild. A letter is sent, an interview arranged, and Emme soon finds herself daydreaming of exotic locations, finding a scoop and all of the many ‘journo stereotypes’ she’s seen in film. And she is more than excited, sharing her news with all who will listen, when the job is hers. Arriving at the office, Emme soon finds that she is working directly for Mrs. Bird: the editress of Woman’s Friend, one of the many woman-centric magazines with fiction, patterns, recipes and tips and, an advice column. Emme’s job is to type up whatever is needed, and sort through the letters coming to Henrietta Helps, the advice column (half page, second from last) of the magazine. Now, Mrs. Bird is brash, overbearing and more than a bit regressive. Her advice is meant only for the steel-skinned, and full of “stiff upper lip’ and ‘deal with it”, and her list of UNACCEPTABLE (and yes, Mrs. Bird is a shouter) topics include relations (married, pre-marital, affairs, thought of, difficulty with), fear of war, nerves, the war, Hitler, complaints about war, choices about evacuating children, missing said children… essentially, if it’s something that everyone BUT Mrs. Bird is struggling with – it’s forbidden. But Emme is different: seeing her own self, or her friends in some of the questions, and knowing that people are often afraid to speak with friends about their worries as everyone is trying to keep moving forward bravely, and wanting to help – she starts to answer some of the questions, herself. Some she simply mails a response back, then with a dash of bravery and foolhardiness, she puts on in the magazine. The real issue here is Emme doesn’t know what she doesn’t know – and the chance of her being caught are greater, and more dire, than she could believe. What emerges here is a lovely story with what has to be one of the strongest and most palpable characters in a debut offering that I have ever read. Emme is kind and determined, if a bit headstrong, and often believes that she, and she alone, can keep her friends, co-workers and even her little place in the world happy and safe. This often means that she’s a tiny bit of a martinet, with all the best intentions: she wants to keep her friends happy and safe, and she’s doing all she can to make it so. Told from Emme’s perspective, we see her grow and come to understand the scope and challenges of the war and for the people she loves, and when it all comes to a head with a separation from Bunty who has always been there, her depression throws her into doubling down on both her letters and her work – overnight shifts for the brigade, mornings at the magazine office – the telling statement of her not knowing how they did it all, all are both typically British in feel, and wholly unique as Emme takes us through war-time London, showing us the moments of fear, destruction and
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the premise of a woman helping with a magazine advice column in London during World War II. This book whetted my appetite for similar books, though this one might have spoiled me. Despite a handful of historical inaccuracies, which normally annoy me more, I enjoyed this immensely. The characters are among the most likeable that I have ever encountered in a novel. And Pearce has a delightful sense of humor. Reading this book is like stepping back into the 1940s, and gives the reader a picture of what everyday life was like during the war. We see how the restrictions and dangers affected those normal routines that we all take for granted. I especially enjoyed the snippets such as ad copy from the times of the German bombings. For example, one restaurant bragged that it was “The safest and gayest restaurant in town. Even in the air raids. Twenty feet below ground!” Though it wasn’t as bad as some recent books, there was a little bit of politics, and that is why I gave this book a 4 instead of a 5. I am so wearied of writers sneaking their political opinions into their fiction. When I want to read about politics, I buy an overtly political book, not one that tries to be subtle. But otherwise, this is a great read, and I was sorry for the reading experience to end.
Anonymous 5 months ago
This+novel+is+written++from++the++perspective++of++a++22+year++old++young++woman+.++I++believe++the+book++might+appeal+to++young++adult+female++readers+.+I++found+it+rather++dull+and++foolish+.+
BeagleGirl123 8 months ago
As the Nazis bomb London nightly during early 1941, Emmeline Lake and her best friend, Bunty, do what they can to support the war effort (Emmy volunteers for the fire brigade and Bunty works in the War Office), while trying to keep up their morale. Emmy dreams of becoming a war correspondent, but instead is the assistant to Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist for Woman's Friend magazine, who refuses to answer any unpleasant questions. Emmy takes it upon herself to help the women who Mrs. Bird won't, and impersonates her to do so. Dear Mrs. Bird is a charming story of one young woman's life during the blitz - filled with heartache, loss, love and friendship. A+
LibbyMcKinmer 8 months ago
Emmeline Lake of London, England, dreams of being a War Correspondent during World War II. When she spots an ad in the London Evening Chronicle, she applies and gets the job. She believes she’s on her way, until she discovers she’s just the latest typist for advice columnist Henrietta Bird, not an easy boss, with many rules and restrictions for her staff. Young and enthusiastic, Emmy figures she’ll stick with it since she now has her toe in the Journalist door. One of Mrs. Bird’s rules is that no letters requesting advice for anything Unpleasant be answered. They are to be discarded. Of course, those end up being the ones that speak to Emmy, who decides to risk breaking the rules and start answering them as Mrs. Bird. This story of Emmy and her friend Bunty, along with a cast of supporting characters, takes a peek inside the lives of ordinary people during extraordinary times through the Blitz of London. The excessive use of Capitalization can be irritating, but it is a reflection of the time and How Things Were Done.
rendezvous_with_reading More than 1 year ago
Thanks @dutton books for this copy to review! Living in London duing the blitz, Emmeline Lake longs to be war correspondent, so when she sees an advertisement in The Evening Chronicle for a position she promptly applies. However, due to a misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the intimidating Mrs Bird, who writes the advice column for Women's Friend magazine. Mrs Bird is very strict on her "no unpleasantness" policy, meaning that she will not respond to letters from desperate women who are having problems with their men or those lonely because their children have been evacuated from the blitz. Emmy feels terrible having to throw their letters out and decides to secretly write back. What could possibly go wrong? I've been wanting to get to this book for quite awhile and the anticipation for it was well rewarded. It's in a similar vein as Everyone Brave is Forgiven, in the sense that it has a heartwarming feel about it, but then the next moment the war rages into the plot with a tragic punch. Emmy is admirable in her youthful optimism and I loved her relationship with her best friend Bunty. Together, they are doing their part to support the war effort, but always dreaming of their future lives. When tragedy strikes, it will call for forgiveness and courage from both of them as their friendship is put to the test. I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it!
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
What an enjoyable story. This takes place during the Blitz, when many left behind on the home front are taking on a variety of unusual jobs, sometimes multiple ones. When Emmeline, who wishes to become a war correspondent, applies for a job at a news magazine, she doesn't realize the misunderstanding until too late. She is hired as a typist to the advice columnist at a floundering women's magazine. When she can't stop herself from secretly replying to some of the letters Mrs. Bird finds too Scandalous, you just know things are going to go Awry. I really enjoyed her relationship with her best friend Bunty and how both girls and many other Londoners make their way through this tumultuous time.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
Emmeline Lake, Emmy, works for a solicitor by day and volunteers by answering phones for the fire brigade a few nights a week due to London being blitzed regularly by the Luftwaffe. This is not her dream job. She dreams of becoming a war correspondent or a journalist covering political intrigue. Discovering a newspaper ad for part-time work at The London Evening Chronicle, she immediately applies for this part-time job and is hired. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the job she has gotten is nothing more than a junior typist job for Woman's Friend Magazine. She is to read letter sent in to Mrs. Bird, then type her responses for the column Henrietta Helps. The only problem is that the imposing Mrs. Bird has a list of unacceptable topics or words, so she answers very few letters. Because Emmy reads the letters and feels badly for those who will not get a reply, she secretly decides to send kindly responses to women desperate enough to write in and sign them Mrs. Bird. When the bombing of London hits too close to home for Emmy, she has to deal with her best friend's injuries and emotional problems. "Dear Mrs. Bird" is a historical fiction novel that elicits a lot of feelings and emotions. The reality of what happened in London during the blitz is heartbreaking. This book is a tribute to the women remaining at home in a country under siege. This is reflected with Emmy who is also a volunteer with the Fire Brigade, answering calls each night as the bombings occur, as well as with those who write letters to Henrietta Bird seeking advice as they try to deal with their real problems. At times it is funny and light, but also sad and horrifying as we see the destruction and losses. There were a few times that I was very frustrated with Emmy. She tended to be a bit overbearing and dishonest at various times in the story. Overall, I enjoyed this story and if you like WWII stories, historical fiction, women's stories, then I recommend you give this book a try. The publisher, Scribner, generously provided me with a copy of this book to read. The ratings, ideas and opinions are my own.
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
What a sweet and powerful book. It is light and yet as it goes along, it has some really heartwarming and heavy subjects it addresses. I really enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4.5. What an enjoyable read! In the genre of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lady Pettigrew’s Last Stand. A more perky and witty, yet sober novel on the times of the Blitz in London as seen through the eyes of a young woman, Emmeline, who dreamed of being a woman war correspondent who had an impact on the world but instead worked as a part-time assistant to a rather dowdy and rigid advice columnist. Emmy also worked as a volunteer for the local fire brigade on her off hours. Notwithstanding not doing what she yearned to do, Emmy did make an impact on the everyday lives of those surviving during the turbulent times of the war, sometimes with unforeseen consequences. The novel probably included every English colloquialism yet so delightful. The characters are all very well defined. This is a debut novel by Ms. Pearce and I look forward to her future works if anything like this. Righto!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4.5. What an enjoyable read! In the genre of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lady Pettigrew’s Last Stand. A more perky and witty, yet sober novel on the times of the Blitz in London as seen through the eyes of a young woman, Emmeline, who dreamed of being a woman war correspondent who had an impact on the world but instead worked as a part-time assistant to a rather dowdy and rigid advice columnist. Emmy also worked as a volunteer for the local fire brigade on her off hours. Notwithstanding not doing what she yearned to do, Emmy did make an impact on the everyday lives of those surviving during the turbulent times of the war, sometimes with unforeseen consequences. The novel probably included every English colloquialism yet so delightful. The characters are all very well defined. This is a debut novel by Ms. Pearce and I look forward to her future works if anything like this. Righto!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars rounded up. I’ve read many books about World War II. Dear Mrs. Bird offers a fresh tale on this fascinating time period. A 1939 copy of a women’s magazine, especially its Problem Page inspired author A.J. Pearce to create a lively fictional account of London during the Blitz. The boss, Mrs. Bird, is formidable and strict. She will not respond to Unpleasantness (Married Life, kissing, politics and religion) in her women’s magazine column. The novel, Dear Mrs. Bird, has it all: kissing, drama, deep friendship, humor, kindness, sorrow, spunk, well-drawn characters who elicit an emotional response. Chapter titles (A Quandary over Next Steps, A Rumour of Pineapple Chunks) poke fun at an old style of writing, but there is nothing ‘fuddy-duddy’ about the sharp, witty writing. Clever descriptions add humor, “I’d managed to get hold of an onion, which was very good news for a stew.” The British wore an attitude of Keep Calm, keep going. They didn’t over-analyze, they just did it. In Dear Mrs. Bird, Emmy Lake questions if glossing over the hard stuff is always helpful. She begins secretly answering magazine reader responses with caring and understanding. “How often did we say well done to our readers? How often did anyone ever tell women they were doing a good job? That they didn’t have to be made of steel all the time? That it was all right to feel a bit down?” Emmy’s first-person narrative draws the reader like friends sharing a cup of tea. Chin-up Emily later admits, she kept telling herself to buck up but couldn’t. Her colleague's face "twisted itself into a determined imitation of an Everything Will Be Fine smile. I managed an equal imitation of one back.” I love when author’s say so much is with so little. Well-researched details add dimension to the story without getting in the way – the girls wore white scarfs, so they wouldn’t get “flattened by a bus” walking to their flat during blackouts. London’s bombing/ fire scenes were sad and terrifying, (though not graphic). Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for granting access to an arc of this book for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story of young women in war time england. I enjoyed it tremendously a ND recommend it highly.
NovelKim More than 1 year ago
December, 1940, World War II is looming large; Hitler and his Luftwaffe are dropping bombs on London every night wreaking destruction and mayhem. “The world has become ugly and mad.” Told In the first person, Emmaline Lake, thinking she was interviewing for a job that would lead to her ultimate goal of becoming a war correspondent, accepts only to discover that she has once again rushed in without paying attention to the fine print. After all when she saw the announcement in the paper she was just “cock-a-hoop”. Ah, but the job isn’t with The Chronicle as she had thought, but with “Woman’s Friend”. She is to be a typist to “Henrietta Helps”, a Dear Abbey type who has pages of word she finds objectionable and therefore will also only answer the most generic letters with fatuous comments. Well, Emmy has hopes of being a journalist and her best friend Bunty thinks this is surely her first step and it is just going to be grand. “Things had really perked up.” Just delightful. Unfortunately Emmy has a tendency to disregard the rules and takes matters a step or two out of bounds. She is risking her job, her friendships, everything, and it gets worse. She is thrown over by her fiancée Edmund, and if there is any comfort to be had, her mother reminds Emmy that “men are such fatheads”. Just delightful. There is also a strong and important back story and tribute to those women in the Auxiliary Fire Service and the London firemen who responded to the calls of fires and collapsed buildings caused by the nightly bombings. Death and loss is not left out of the narrative, but strengthened by it. Well, that part is not delightful but told with sensitivity. I loved this book; it made me laugh, sigh, gasp, shed a tear, and have hope. This would have been a great 1940’s movie. Thank you Netgalley and Scribner for a copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This debut novel is a cross between a blitzkrieg London story and a British cozy, complete with previous century manners and mannerisms. A bit of a historical novel, but with strong themes of women's friendship, changing work mores, journalism dreams, "Agony Aunt" letters during wartime. A light, often amusing tone & well-drawn characters make this a fast, entertaining read. Not really my style, but consistently very well done. . 3.5 stars
andi22 More than 1 year ago
Set in London, 1940. Emmeline "Emmy" Lake is a volunteer [answering telephones] for the Auxiliary Fire Service. She dreams of becoming a war correspondent. And, when she applies for --and accepts a job at the London Evening Chronicle, she thinks she's on her way. But the job is not what she thought. Turns out Emmy's a typist for Mrs. Henrietta Bird, a formidable woman, who is the acting/"editress" of the magazine, Woman's Friend, -- which offers advice--with very limited parameters. Mrs. Bird declares most subjects off limits--e.g., premarital, marital, and extramarital relations, political activities and opinions, religious activities and opinions, and more. And, there are words to avoid--such as affair, amorous, ardent, bed, bedroom, and so on. You get the picture. Letters with such unpleasantness are to be cut up and trashed. But Emmy has problems with this stricture thinking that the women seeking advice should receive answers. And so, Emmy answers some of them, signing Mrs. Bird's name. She posts most of them, but a few also get into the magazine-leaving her ever fearful she'll be found out. The novel follows Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, around London during wartime--bombings, rationing, and so on. Bunty is engaged to a firefighter, Bill, who works where Emmy volunteers. Emmy is engaged to Edmund, but fairly early on we learn the engagement is off. The book has both poignancy and humor. For example, when Emmy feels a letter worthy of consideration, she shows Mrs. Bird -- who rejects it. "Miss Lake, your moral standards belong in the gutter. They are quite extraordinarily low. She made it sound as if I had been brought up by a group of exceptionally awful prostitutes." Mrs. Bird is described as having "impressive mobility for a woman of large stature and certain age…" Harold … "held out a large ham about the size of a tennis bat, which, it turned out, was one of his hands." A charming read especially the first two-thirds. Then, as it is set in London during bombings, it turns darker. No spoiler alert from me but it does it end rather sweetly and perhaps a bit tidily. Still, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. This is a debut novel, I can't wait to see what A.J. Pearce does next.
Dianne57 More than 1 year ago
For me, this was a very interesting read. I love historical fiction and had never read one for this time period. I'm glad I did because it brought home to me what it was (IS) like to live, work and play in a war-torn area of the world. I could never know what living with bombs raining down on me was really like and this author captures exactly what I imagined it would be like. Some of this book left a bit to be desired since the heroine was so very naive, but that could be because of the time period and that most girls were just not used to being the 'strong' ones yet. And yes, those left at home to keep 'the home fires burning' were just as strong, in my opinion, as the boys defending flag and country. A happily ever after for some a not so happily ever after for other's -I liked that this romance book showed that not everything was peaches and cream. There were humor and sadness and frustration in this book and they blended nicely. I may not re-read this book but I certainly would recommend it to those that like historical fiction and especially to those who are younger than I am. *ARC supplied by publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dear Mrs. Bird is an engaging and warm first novel. Readers who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society are almost certain to rate this book highly. Mrs. Bird is an out of touch editor at a woman's magazine during WW II who is responsible for the agony column. Sadly, she deems most letters "unsuitable" for answering. Enter Emmy; young, naive, and trying to cope with bombs and disasters in London. She begins to answer letters as Mrs. Bird and you need to read the book to learn what happens. This novel at first seemed like it would be light but it has substance. Themes of love, friendship and how to relate to others all have their place. I highly recommend Dear Mrs. Bird! I would like to write her a fan letter. Thanks for this read NetGalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Strong characters. Great story line. Well constructed. Very enjoyable.