REVIEW: Dear Mrs Bird, A.J Pearce

Friday, 4 May 2018

London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. 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, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can't bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .

I went into Dear Mrs Bird with high hopes - life working at an advice column in war-torn London? I am sucker for historical fiction and from the blurb, this novel seemed as though it was going to offer a snapshot into life at an impossible time. And I suppose it succeeded in that. 
I don’t know.
The issue is that A.J Pearce tried distractingly hard to ground the novel in this time period. The language, the names (dear god, what sort of name is BUNTY?), the interactions (her attempt at writing a Czech character’s speech was very close to offensive) - I looked up A.J Pearce at the end of nearly every chapter because I couldn’t believe that the person writing it could have ever stepped foot on British soil. It didn’t create atmosphere, or entice the reader into the world, it just made all of the characters seem like irritating caricatures. Every few words a phrase was capitalised - yet another distraction that I assume was supposed to emphasise just how British everyone was.
I mean, seriously? 
I know the English lexicon has changed since the 1940s, but to this extent? Not bloody likely.
Dear Mrs Bird would have been a far easier, and more enjoyable read, if A.J Pearce would have focused foremost on the environment of war-torn London, which should’ve been given far more attention, instead of the sometimes almost nonsensical conversations that its characters had.
Do you know when you have a conversation with someone and you realise at the end of it, nothing was actually said? 
This book was like that, over and over again.
And, to say that the book was about an advice column, I feel as though all of those wasted pages could have been used instead to actually focus on the main character’s work at the magazine, as most of the time spent there was glossed over. And, let’s be honest, I am starting to think that her work there was just a way of introducing a love interest to replace her old one. I know, I know, it’s the 1940’s, but the fact that she NEEDED a love interest, despite the fact that neither of them added anything to the plot, was formulaic and wholly unnecessary.
Dear Mrs Bird could have been such an impactful read, one about women supporting and loving other women, and yet frankly, it failed at every turn.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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