Four books in and I can't believe I didn't read for so long. It is good for the soul, it broadens the mind and it's a really good excuse to meet once a month and have a glass of wine. If you still haven't managed to read a whole book yet; keep at it. You'll get there, one page at a time!
Dear Mrs Bird is set in the 1940s and written in the first person from the perspective of a young woman called Emmy. Emmy lives with her best friend Bunty, in a London flat belonging to Bunty's wealthy grandma. Amidst the bombing raids of the second world war Emmy dreams of being a war correspondent, but mistakingly applies for a job as the assistant to Henrietta Bird, an agony aunt for a women's weekly magazine. There is a long list of problems that Mrs Bird feels are too morally questionable to respond to and moved by the letters, Emmy feels compelled to write back.
We had mixed responses to the novel. Was the characterisation believable? Were Emmy and Bunty relatable? They both came from relatively wealthy backgrounds and used language that epitomised the stereotypical stiff upper lip wartime spirit. With 'biff's and 'jolly good's' abound (Biff should definitely make a come back. I'll introduce it to my four year old tomorrow. 'Don't biff your brother') some of us were not convinced by the authenticity. Equally, it was suggested that the plot felt slightly contrived.
Personally speaking, I found the novel extremely moving. The contrast between the language Emmy used when she was with others, pretending that everything was okay and playing things down, with the glimpses of bombed out London when she was alone, intensified for me how horrific it was. Going about their lives as though there weren't bombs dropping was an act of defiance and bravery.
Pearce shines a light on what life was like for women. The letters a window into the worlds of so many who were left behind to cope in horrific circumstances. There might have been aspects of the novel that seemed contrived, but the feel of the novel, for me, is one of solidarity with these women.
We are strong, we are brave; but that doesn't mean it's not okay to feel down or depressed or lonely or scared. It's okay to have a little cry.
Please join us at The Knackered Parent's Book Club, unlike Mrs Bird, there is no list of topics that we don't discuss!