Gransnet forums

Books/book club

April book club - Dear Mrs Bird

(81 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 03-Apr-18 16:40:53

The winners should have their copies or be getting them very soon. The book is out on Thursday for anyone who would like to join in. Find out more HERE

If you do get a free copy, don't forget to leave your thoughts/questions for the author on this thread by the end of the month.

And watch out for our May book giveaway - coming soon

Shinyredcar Mon 23-Apr-18 11:07:57

I found the language very reminiscent of the Boarding School stories I read as a child. I had no idea then whether it was an accurate representation of how people spoke because that was not a world I was familiar with.

Emmy would have been contemporary with my mother, but I find it hard to think of Mum and her friends, in a major city, heavily bombed, but not London, being as naive and inexperienced as Emmy at her age. In many ways, the cartoon Mrs Bird was more believable than the central character.

Being old, I was aware of the bombing of the Cafe de Paris, which rather removed the element of surprise in the outcome of William's planned celebratory party. I wondered whether the author had expected it to be news to readers and would be disappointed to find that disastrous effects on Bunty and William were anticipated rather than a shock. Emmy's delayed departure for the party was seen as a lucky break, not a frustrating interruption to her plans.

It was a light read, quite jolly, and may well end up in the cinema. No doubt the author would be pleased if it did!

It made a pleasant change from the current trend for dark psychological thrillers.

GeminiJen Mon 23-Apr-18 11:55:27

Maggiemaybe...Snap! I spotted that too.....and had the same mental picture of Mrs Bird's reaction grin

Pittcity....Am I a bad person to want Charles to be removed somehow from the scene and Mr Collins to emerge as the new romantic hero?!!

Pittcity Mon 23-Apr-18 16:50:09

GeminiJen that would have been fabulous. But would Emmy have ever been able to call him Guy?

GeminiJen Mon 23-Apr-18 18:28:06

Pittcity...I rather like the name Guy. Would it be a spoiler to ask the author if that might be a possibility wink

Waveney Mon 23-Apr-18 20:47:16

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a light refreshing read, and I liked the forties language, which rather reminded me of my dad. I agree with a previous post that it did remind me a little of the language used in the children's books I enjoyed as a child. (mostly Enid Blyton!)

The story was realistic and flowed naturally- nothing seemed contrived. Emmy was an interesting narrator, and the formidable Mrs Bird is well drawn. I really wanted to know what happens next, and I wonder if it is the author's intention to write a sequel. It would make a good Sunday evening programme.

I would like to ask the author how many of the characters were based on real people (she seems to imply that at least some are in the notes at the end)

However the best point for me has been that I can finally pass on a book to my lovely step mum. She is quite conservative in her tastes, and most novels are too racy for her ( or so she tells me! She isn't really like Mrs Bird! ) I think she will enjoy this one.

Thank you ,GN, for another good choice.

nonnanna Tue 24-Apr-18 19:19:44

What a great read. My mother had described the blitz to me exactly how it is portrayed in 'Dear Mrs Bird' Even down to the dimmed torchlight and no doors opened with the lights on. Please can AJ Pearce find someone to make a TV series of this wonderful book?

Greciangirl Wed 25-Apr-18 10:19:42

I am halfway through my copy and enjoying it immensely.

It gives an insight into life during the air raid and bombing of London in WW2.
It’s a tale of romance and hardship. The main character is a ARP warden volunteer. But she also has a day job on a woman’s magazine.
I won’t spoil it by telling who Mrs Bird is. Can’t wait to finish it though.

blubber Thu 26-Apr-18 11:29:14

I loved the book "Dear Mrs Bird" it is beautifully written, made me laugh out loud in some places and shed a tear in others

grannyqueenie Thu 26-Apr-18 17:14:38

I’ve really enjoyed this book. Born in 1950 I didn’t live through the war years, but did grow up in the shadow of it all. Mind you I think some of the situations depicted in the book would be a mile or two away from the experiences of folk on a Glasgow housing estate!

Greenfinch Thu 26-Apr-18 17:26:22

I can't be as enthusiastic about this book as other Gransnetters.It was OK and fairly interesting and the descriptions of the Blitz and the air raids were presented very vividly and accurately but I have no desire to know what happened to the characters in a sequel and I did not relate to any of them apart from Bunty who would have made a good heroine.The end was predictable and I didn't particularly like Emmy who seemed a bit flighty and silly .However,the theme of the book was imaginative but I am not sure if we were supposed to regard the characters as caricatures.I quite liked Mr Collins.

rocketstop Fri 27-Apr-18 20:15:00

I agreed with Maggiemaybe: I started reading the book and thought I wasn't going to be able to put up with the brittle tone of the 'Stiff upper lip' language, it reminded me of an old black and white Sunday afternoon film !
However I guess the clipped voices were very much in evidence at that time, but I would have liked to have heard more ordinary voices as well as the 'Upper crust' ones.
Carrying on into the book, I felt we got to the real meat on the bones of the story, the characters started to become fully drawn and each took on their own full personality.I could definitely 'See' Mrs Bird in her tweeds and her no nonsense brogues, the eccentricity of Mr Collins and the 'Under the radar' personality of the constant Kathleen.
I think maybe thetre would be more to tell about Bunty and what happens to her next, also what happens to Emmy now? Does she become the journalist she wanted to be? Does Charles survive anmd do things develop between them ? These are all avenues another book could investigate, A. J, would you consider writing more about these people ? Despite my first impressions, I ended up caring what happened to them ! Well done !

hulahoop Sun 29-Apr-18 17:11:49

Not my usual choice of book but I did enjoy it like some of other posters I would like to know if any more books about characters so we can see what happens to the characters ?

harrigran Sun 29-Apr-18 17:42:11

Delightful if rather twee story. Emmy and Bunty are lovely middle class girls who get to share a flat in Granny's house in war torn London and the story is about their friendship.
I think this book was rather well written considering the author obviously did not live through those difficult times, she has the sayings of the time and the manner of speaking. When Emmy's mother was talking I could picture Celia Johnson as she was in Brief encounter and that is I think a sign of a good storyteller.
Emmy was a bit of a fantasist, she was never going to make a war correspondent but you couldn't fault her for trying to help people.
A good first novel with no bad language, well done.

pauline123 Mon 30-Apr-18 01:00:51

I enjoyed the book and thought it gave a good description as to what life in the blitz was like. Emmy is a dedicated heroine with her night time work at the fire station along with her day job at the magazine. It's a shame we didn't get to find out whether Emmys romance with Charles carried on both throughout and after the war. Perhaps the author has a sequel in mind .

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 30-Apr-18 10:41:12

We will be sending questions over to the author this week so please do add yours if you received one of our free copies

grannyqueenie Thu 03-May-18 10:47:27

I wondered if the author had wartime experiences from her extended family to draw on?

bookiemad15 Tue 15-May-18 10:38:21

Bit late to the party but loved this book. Have reviewed on Goodreads and Amazon. Really quirky and unusual. Would love to know where the inspiration for the character of Henrietta Bird came from?

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:49:47

eGJ

GN you’ve done it again! You chose an amusing, thought provoking novel for April. A suprising central theme but Mrs Bird herself is beautifully drawn; she LEAPS OFF THE PAGE! The other characters and the war-time local colour keep you turning the pages long into the night. I was sorry that it had to end!
A. J. you say that a 1939 magazine inspired you to write Dear Mrs Bird - have you any more novels inspired by these magazines up your sleeve? I’ll be in the queue if you do!
Thank you GN (and AJP) for lifting the spirits and raising a few chuckles and smiles smile and flowers all round

Thank you, I am so glad Dear Mrs Bird made you smile! The magazines from the WW2 era are endlessly inspiring, and such a gift to writers. I am writing the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird now and there will definitely be more from the world wartime magazine world on its way!

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:50:47

GrannyBear

‘Dear Mrs Bird’ is a delightful book, light reading but nevertheless most enjoyable. The naiveté of the main character, Emmeline (Emmy), and the predictability of the main storyline only serve to add to its charm.

Emmy dreams of becoming a journalist, a war correspondent to be precise. She applies for a job at a local newspaper and even before her interview, she has visions of being sent on dangerous assignments across London in pursuit of stories at the cutting edge of political reporting. However, when the job materialises, she is a junior typist reporting to Mrs Bird, a bossy Agony Aunt who writes the Problems Page in a failing woman’s magazine.

Mrs Bird is well characterised in the book. She is a large woman with a large voice. Using capital letters to document most of her conversations is an effective way of portraying her as a bit of a bully who is not interested in any points of view but her own.

The description of what life was like for a young girl like Emmy during WW2 was totally engaging and her attempts to be both sophisticated and knowledgeable were on some occasions heart-rending and at other times downright funny. What shone through for me throughout the book was Emmy’s loyalty to her best friend Bunty and her determination to keep their friendship alive despite tragic circumstances.

This is an entertaining and well-written book which amply demonstrates the survival of the human spirit in times of severe adversity and, in addition, it presents a balanced view of difficult times at both national and personal levels. ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ is AJ Pearce’s debut novel. I trust she will keep writing and I look forward to reading more from her in due course.

I would like to know from the Author whether or not she used any real letters from the magazines which were her inspiration.

Yes, all the letters and problems featured in the novel were inspired by letters, advice and features from real magazines. Some of the issues could happen now, others were very much a consequence of the war.

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:51:57

gillyknits

I agree with a GrannyBear that this was a light read but I quite enjoyed it. There were clear descriptions of the era especially during the bombing raids. I think it really captured the fear and chaos when the bombs were falling.
I did feel that the depiction of Mrs Bird as a large person with a loud personality was a bit predictable but amusing all the same.
Unusually for a book about war, this depicted a forgotten aspect of women left at home alone to cope. Young girls thrown into temptation when meeting men in uniform.. The letters written to an agony Aunt were a a good way of depicting this .Mrs.Bird’s refusal to reply to any contentious issues showed the morals of a previous generation coming into conflict with a new generation.
I can’t say that I laughed out loud but it certainly made me cry a couple of times.
Will the author be writing further books about the war time years?

Absolutely! I’m working on the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird at the moment.

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:52:50

GeminiJen

Thanks GN and AJ Pearce. Another good read flowers
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!

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:53:21

Maggiemaybe

After giving March's GN book a very lukewarm review (and feeling guilty and ungrateful), my heart sank after I'd got through the first few chapters of Dear Mrs Bird without warming to it at all. I initially found the language very stilted, as if 1940s terminology had just been used to hammer the setting home for the modern reader. And the first chapters seemed a bit lightweight and fluffy. The characterisation of Mrs Bird struck me as unsubtle and stereotypical. I was steeling myself to write another ungracious and critical review.

Well, I was wrong (phew!). I soon got into the swing of the 1940s language, and though the overall tone of Dear Mrs Bird was light at first, it certainly became darker as the story progressed. It's fluffy till it isn't.... The descriptions of blitzed and war torn London were hard-hitting and vivid. I began to believe in the dreadful Mrs Bird (who'd have been jolly cross about the duplicated paragraph on page 196, by the way grin). And then the central tragedy of the book struck and really gripped me. That section absolutely captured the fear, the bravery, the stoicism and the horror of London under attack.

So thank you, GN and the author, for a spiffing read. I would like to ask A J Pearce about the setting for her next novel - will it be a period piece again or in the present day?

Thank you. The next novel is definitely another period piece – it follows on from Dear Mrs Bird and while I have been sworn to secrecy about the details, I can tell you that it is set not too much later after the end of the first novel.

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:53:57

Parsleywin

Like some previous reviewers, I too assumed that this book was going to be too light to be satisfying. Not so!

I think the author (are we allowed to know what her initials stand for?) was very skilful in capturing the feel of wartime and the bravery and endurance which seem a million light years away from Generation Snowflake.

Thanks for my copy of a book I would probably not otherwise have read, and I very much look forward to AJ's next one.

Thank you. Yes, AJ stands for Amanda Jane.

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:54:50

cornergran

I’ve enjoyed this book, mostly read sitting in the garden in the sunshine so a million miles away from war in a city. It made me think of my parents and their experiences in London, it brought back my mother describing returning from a night shift and pausing on a railway bridge to see if her home was still standing. I recontacted the stoicism and unthinking bravery of the times.

I found the writing style and language took me straight into the era and so it was not a distraction. Although I would say this was an easy and fairly speedy read it wasn’t superficial. Mrs Bird was my grandmother in attitudes, if noisier and seemingly more powerful. The closeness of friendship a reminder of the strength and understanding that can flow from another person.

I enjoyed this book, I was sorry to get to the end, as the author grew up in Hampshire I wonder why she chose to focus on London and if she plans to set the scene for her next book there.

So, thank you GN and thank you to A J Pearce, I am another who would probably not have picked this book from a shelf but am nevertheless pleased to have read it.

Thank you. I set Dear Mrs Bird in London for several reasons. I wanted to focus on a large city in the middle of the Blitz and as I lived and worked in London for many years, it is somewhere I am most familiar with and know many of the locations used in the novel. My family is from London and that link is important to me. And yes, the next book is set there too.

AJPearce Thu 17-May-18 10:55:29

Pittcity

What a fabulous read for a sunny afternoon in the garden. Plenty of humour and sadness.
Mrs Bird is a larger than life character of Hyacinth Bucket proportions and the story hinges on her foibles.
I too would like to know what happens next. Will Emmy settle with Charles or become a career woman? It was not easy to do both at the time.
I was drawn into the story and fascinated by the descriptions of the watime London that my parents were born into.
Highly recommended.

Thank you so much, I’m really glad you want to know what happens next. I REALLY wish I could tell you here! I can’t give anything away, but I am thrilled to be writing another
novel about Emmy and her friends.