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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #679

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 6:02pm by muffy


A. J. Pearce’s chance discovery of a 1939 women’s magazine is the inspiration behind her debut novel, Dear Mrs. Bird. Among the things she loved most was “The Problem Page” where women would write for advice as they faced “unimaginably difficult situations in the very toughest of times.”

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake, typist by day and a volunteer telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services by night, answered a want-ad for a “junior” at London Evening Chronicle, finally realizing her dream to be a lady war correspondent. In actual fact, she was hired as a junior typist for Mrs. Henrietta Bird, the advice columnist of a weekly women’s magazine in the same building.  Emmeline could almost overlook the overbearing and rude Mrs. Bird if not for her long and unreasonable list of UNACCEPTABLE TOPICS that would not be published or responded to. Feeling sorry for these women who were often lonely and faced with difficult decisions, Emmeline began answering their letters in secret.

Vividly evocative of wartime life, with its descriptions of bombed streets, frantic fire stations, and the desperate gaiety and fortitude of ordinary souls enduring nightly terror, Pearce’s novel lays a light, charming surface over a graver underbelly. With its focus on the challenges and expectations placed on those left behind, it also asks: Who is supporting the women in a world turned upside down by war?” (Kirkus Reviews)

For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir and Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.


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