The Strand Palace Book Club is back!
Book of the month - Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
A special note from author AJ Pearce...
"I am so thrilled that Dear Mrs Bird is the first book to have been chosen for the Strand Palace hotel’s Book Club. It is set during WW2 at a fictional publishers based just a few hundred yards down the road from the hotel. As in real life the Strand Palace was hugely popular with wartime service personnel, particularly from the USA, I hope Dear Mrs Bird will be a lovely read during a stay in London.
The novel is the first of a series set in London about a young woman, Emmeline Lake, who dreams of becoming a war journalist. In it, Emmy gets a job working for Mrs Henrietta Bird, the formidable agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Unfortunately, Mrs Bird refuses to answer any problems about ‘Unpleasantness’, by which she means love, relationships, or even (the horror!) sex. Feeling awful for the readers, Emmy decides she must try to help, and even though she is completely unqualified, secretly starts to write back.
The book is (I hope!) both funny and sad, and most of all, focuses on the experiences of women coming together to do their bit during the war. The Observer called it “joyfully uplifting” and The Times said it was “just the tonic for that jaded feeling that the world is ugly and mad,” both of which were hugely kind.
The idea for it came about when I bought a 1939 copy of a women’s magazine. I loved all the old adverts and the fashion and wartime tips, but it was the problem page that really jumped out at me. Many of the problems really weren’t very different to the ones we have now – families, love, relationships or work. Others though could only have taken place during a war, and reading them is often deeply moving.
In the book there are lots of letters from the magazine’s readers. These are all based on actual letters published during the war. I have around eight hundred magazines from the era now, and they are an endless source of information and inspiration as part of my research.
I have also been extremely lucky to meet and interview some incredible women who have shared their personal recollections. ‘Wartime spirit’ is sometimes seen as a cliché, but I never fail to be in awe of the positivity and sheer guts of the women I meet. Whether an adult or a child at the time, the term ‘our finest generation’ is absolutely right. They inspire me all the time.
I hope you will enjoy reading the novel. I am currently writing the third novel in the series and now that Dear Mrs Bird is part of this book club, I am very tempted to adapt the plot so that Emmy and her friends can have a splendid evening out at the Strand Palace Hotel!"
Dear Mrs Bird was shortlisted for Debut of the Year in the 2019 British Book Awards and for the US Library Reads’ Favorites of Favorites, 2018. The sequel, Yours Cheerfully is out now in paperback.
You can find AJ @ajpearcewrites on social media and at www.ajpearce.com