Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Charming, endearing and just lovely. I couldn’t put it down! It’s rare to find a gem about average people in WWII; but thanks to A.J. Pearce we have a solidly written and well put together story. All the characters felt like real people I could know or could even be me if I had lived at that time!
Our leading lady is just wonderful! I feel like she and I could be the same person; or at least kindred spirits. Her internal dialogue to herself is so similar to how I 'speak' to myself that it was almost scary. I'll confess that this lady is much wittier and funnier than I am. As a late-teen/early 20's woman during WWII our lead is torn between her 'obligation' (as per society) to marry and settle down versus her desire for a career. The man she is engaged to doesn't want her to work in the future (once married) and this is a conflict for her because she feels she can make a difference (even if small) in the war effort by supporting those at home via her writing and isn't sure she ever wants to be just a housewife. On this I do not blame her!
I'm always reminded of The Devil Wears Prada (book or movie) when anyone talks about dream jobs. I once thought I had a dream career and job; working as a magazine Art Director. Little did I realize when I started out in it that it would become crazy stressful career (didn't seem to matter where I worked) with crazy deadlines (leading to late 2 am nights at the office; only to get back up and be there at 8 am!), unreasonable requests (from advertisers, publishers or editorial staff), a poor wage, and almost none of the 'glitz and glamour' that everyone thinks it will be. And so just like my personal experience, and that seen in The Devil Wears Prada, our leading lady discovers that perhaps magazines and editorial writing is not all it's cracked up to be.
Funny how those dream jobs are rarely as wonderful as we make them out to be initially. Like me this leading lady is caught up in being young and idealistic. I loved the progression of her realization that perhaps this job isn't all she had hoped for, nor was it ever going to be. From day 1 she knows it's all wrong (so this is not a spoiler) and yet deludes herself for some time. I think we all do this sometimes in the hopes things will suddenly improve (and sometimes they do; but generally they don't).
Morals & Ethics
It may seem odd to have a book set during WWII talking about morals and ethics that are not at all related to Hitler or the Nazi's; however, Dear Mrs. Bird is that book. The ethics seen here are all about determining when you are 'helping' people and when you are just interfering. There are also discussions of what 'professionalism' entails at any given job. Pearce will challenge you at every step to decide what is moral and what isn't; and even at times place the reader and our leading lady in an unwinnable situation (the 'kobayashi maru' for those Star Trek fans out there; except cheating isn't always a way to win...). This book reminded me that a desire to help is sometimes not enough to justify our actions.
The characters, setting and situations of Dear Mrs. Bird are so well done I can't decide which elements I liked best of the book. All of our supporting characters feel well thought out (even those we barely meet but refer to a lot), the realities of food stamps/rations, bombings in London, shelters, injuries, night clubs and romance are all so well balanced and described that I started to think I was the leading lady several times. Pearce captured my imagination and pulled at my heart strings, engrossing me in the story; and then reminded me that the situations are all 'based on truth'. Realizing people actually lived just like this and at any given time the world could return to this is terrifying at it's core. The reality is that the world keeps spinning or at least rent/mortgages are still due (somehow) even when Hitler is bombing your city nightly. Pearce does a beautiful job of ensuring you are aware of how unfair the world is; but also how it just keeps on going with or without you.
Dear Mrs. Bird is good 'first-time' historical book as it's not super dense or full of references in history you need to know. If you've wanted to take a dive into some WWII historical fiction this is a good start to see if you are up for it.
For those who've been reading historical WWII books for some time; I think you'll find this one is unique in that it's not all dreary and depressing (like some WWII books are). It has a unique perspective as the everyday 'new' adult tries to navigate a war-torn society.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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