Thanks GN and AJ Pearce. Another good read
I’ve been reading a lot of ‘worthy but seriously dry’ stuff of late and this was the perfect antidote. I enjoyed it right from the beginning and found it well written, funny and touching. What’s even more impressive is that it’s the author’s first novel.
Emmy is a very endearing heroine - intelligent, funny, brave and loyal but far from perfect. I should think it’s impossible not to warm to her and to root for her throughout. Even if her actions may at times be misjudged, she’s always well meaning. Her narrative voice is engaging and upbeat and sets the tone of the book: The sun had pulled its socks up and was making a good effort in the almost cloudless winter sky. However, I liked that the author wasn’t afraid to feature darker moments amongst the light-hearted elements (because, of course, the cloudless sky would be a gift to the Luftwaffe bombers).
The other characters are similarly well drawn. I admit a soft spot for the dishevelled Mr. Collins - journalist, writer and, according to Emmy, mortifyingly old at around forty five. I also warmed to Roy (firefighter with a nifty foxtrot), Kathleen (with her unruly red hair and knitted cardigans) and poor Clarence the Post Boy with a Crush. The 'Baddies' were equally well drawn. I kept imagining the late Margaret Rutherford in the role of Mrs Bird, with her imperious show some backbone approach to life. Who do we have to play that role today? Less believable for me was the character of Charles: given his absence on duty, his promise to teach Emmy how to ride a motorbike so that she could become a dispatch rider seemed a tad far fetched. However, it’s Emmy’s friendship with Bunty that helps her get through the days. Dear Mrs. Bird also acts as a reminder of the important role played by women in World War 2; and that constant danger wasn’t faced only by those serving on the front line.
The reader is transported back to a time when people still wrote letters and used them to express their feelings. As Emmy notes, I could see people were ever so frank when they wrote in (to Woman’s Friend) which I thought was quite brave. The importance of letters to those serving away from home comes across clearly too, providing those receiving them with a reminder of what they are fighting for.
Finally, I found the Author’s Note at the end interesting, where AJ Pearce describes how many of the readers’ letters in Dear Mrs Bird were inspired by letters and features printed in wartime magazines: everything from lamb’s brain stew to how to knit your own swimwear. I can bear personal witness to the toe curling embarrassment of seeing my father in just such a creation: i.e. knitted swimming trunks, witnessed by my 10 year old self as he emerged from the waves: a sight never to be forgotten!
It’s always a good sign when you miss a book once it’s gone, and I wished I could have stayed inside this one a little longer. I want to know what happens next for Emmy and Bunty and how life turns out for Mr. Collins, Kathleen et al.; and I really hope there will be a sequel (with a lot of Mr Collins in it!) because I would love to know just what Emmy Does Next.
For the author - Congratulations on an impressive debut. This strikes me as perfect Sunday evening TV viewing, with its mix of ‘pluck’, female friendship, romance, danger, war and the office secrets Emmy is hiding. Any plans for a film or TV adaptation? And, hopefully, a sequel?
Thank you – I’m delighted you liked Emmy and the ‘gang’, especially Mr Collins! The sequel is under way and I am very pleased to be able to tell you that a production company have acquired the rights to develop the novel into a TV series. They are working on the best way to do it and I am involved too which is very exciting! It will be a while before we know if it will be commission to be filmed for broadcast, so it’s fingers crossed for now. I am writing
the sequel currently and would love to see it as Sunday night TV!