Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce – ⭐⭐⭐
For those who can handle brutal heartbreak, for those who understand old-timey British phrases and slang (or have a convenient British friend to translate)
Emmy is doing her bit to help the community as a Fire Services operator during bombings in 1940 London. When she gets a chance at her real dream job of being a war correspondent, she can’t help but jump at it. Unfortunately a mix-up finds her as a women’s issues columnist, with strict orders not to answer anything Unpleasant. Emmy can’t hold herself back when reading the Real Issues that these women have and desperately need advice on, so in between bombings, she poses as Mrs. Bird and responds as she can. All the time, she’s trying to have a life between the threats of losing her job and being caught in a bombing raid by the Germans.
If the letter-writing aspect of this is what’s drawing you in, be aware that a lot of the story is focused on how they manage to live their lives under constant threat of war and danger and death. There’s love, and friendship, and insecurity, but there’s also near-deaths, and bombings, and hatred. You just have to be ready to take both, as they had to at the time.
Starting off: one big issue I had was the language. Since it’s 1940s Britain, there were a lot of phrases used that I had literally no idea what they meant. This did interfere with my understanding at times, like when they were used to describe a character or someone’s thoughts on an event. I just had to try to guess from context what the crap they meant. That was a stumbling block for me, so just fair heads up.
Also, all the people calling this light-hearted and fun are probably really terrifying people, because this book was SAD. And painful. ALmost 100% of the time. Which makes sense, considering it’s entirely about how they live under the constant threat of dying in a horrible bomb fire, or having their loved ones die in a horrible bomb fire, or seeing their city crumble in a horrible bomb fire. You get the idea. All that on top of the usual issues in life of finding satisfaction in a career and a little bit of love. While there were funny moments between characters, this is not overall a light and fun book.
The writing-letters side of the story took a significant backseat to the life-in-wartime side of the story for me. They tie together of course, but when I think back on this, I remember more about the wartime side. Maybe that’s just because it was more emotionally weighted that way, but my point is that the aspect of her writing letters at a newspaper were not the parts I looked forward to the most or felt the most strongly about. It was more of filler for me, despite it’s obvious central role in the story.
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