STARRED REVIEW
July 2018

Do your part

By AJ Pearce

Emmeline Lake has big dreams. She’s already doing what she can to support the war effort as a volunteer telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Service. She writes frequent letters to keep her boyfriend up to date and in high spirits while he’s fighting Hitler and the Nazis. But she wants to do even more: Emmy dreams of becoming a war correspondent.

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Emmeline Lake has big dreams. She’s already doing what she can to support the war effort as a volunteer telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Service. She writes frequent letters to keep her boyfriend up to date and in high spirits while he’s fighting Hitler and the Nazis. But she wants to do even more: Emmy dreams of becoming a war correspondent.

She’s so busy dreaming, in fact, that she doesn’t pay attention during her interview for a job she spotted in The London Evening Chronicle. Emmy daydreams of seeing her byline under important reports from the front. Instead, she’s hired as a typist for another publication: Woman’s Friend. Emmy will spend her days typing up tough-love advice from Mrs. Henrietta Bird, author of the column “Henrietta Helps.”

The problem? Emmy actually wants to help. Mrs. Bird sends any letters containing “unpleasantness” to the rubbish bin. But as Emmy sorts through the mail, she sets aside such letters. Those readers deserve a response, she reasons, and it should be more thoughtful than the harsh advice Mrs. Bird doles out.

So Emmy writes them back. And signs her boss’s name.

It seems like a small offense in the context of World War II. London has so much more to worry about. But as Emmy continues to sort through her boss’s mailbag, she finds that she can provide some hope in the midst of the world’s darkest time.

In Dear Mrs. Bird, debut novelist AJ Pearce draws inspiration from women’s magazine advice columnists of the era. The result is a charming story full of as much pluck and grit as its protagonist.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird

By AJ Pearce
Scribner
ISBN 9781501170065

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