Full details of the Bookclub are available on the Our Clubs page and details of our latest and previous books are available here. Review of our previous books are available on our Bookclub Reviews page.
The Bookclub met on 24 September 2018 to discuss their latest book; “Dear Mrs Bird” by A.J. Pearce
Here’s what our members had to say (about the book)…
An irresistibly funny, charming and moving debut from a sensational talent, sure to be one of the best-loved and most talked about books of the year
London, 1940. 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 . . .
Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird is a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times.
AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire and studied at the University of Sussex. A chance discovery of a 1939 woman’s magazine became the inspiration for her ever-growing collection and her first novel Dear Mrs Bird. She now lives in the south of England.
316 pages (Kindle Edition) – 9 hours and 48 minutes (Audio)
Published 5 April 2018 by Scribner
“Like” was the most commonly used word to describe the book. A word that in itself becomes damming to an extent and yet conveys a lack of active dislike. All but Margaret professed to enjoying the book with the “spirit of the time being brought alive” being the overriding positive comment. The book is set in London during the second world war and focuses on an ambitious, and in many ways, modern young woman. Her parents have encouraged her to follow her career aspirations and education and she states that she couldn’t abide a man stopping her from achieving her dreams. And so we meet Emmy as she applies for her dream job. Whilst the job initially doesn’t quite become the stepping stone to serious journalism that Emmy hopes, neither does the book truly focus on her assent to impersonation of the titular Mrs Bird. Some members felt that that instead of the plot honing in and examining the workplace culture of the time as expected, the book instead concentrated on Emmy’s relationships with her best friend and wider circle with the ‘Mrs Bird’ aspect often becoming a secondary plot line, albeit one that comes full circle towards the end. Chloe (absent but opinionated nonetheless) especially felt that the book premise was somewhat misleading and her interest waned during some sections of the book as it continued. In contrast however, new member Roz found the book irritating in the beginning but warmed to it and felt that it was full of interesting facts about the time period.
Hannah, Sue, Kirsten Peto and Naomi all rather enjoyed the book. Hannah in particular appreciated that Emmy wanted to do something meaningful and that the book seemed to be rooted in reality. The blitz spirit of carrying on regardless was properly evoked. Naomi was reminded of stories told by her father (hi Bob!) and felt that the characters were realistic for people of their status and background. Kirsten Peto agreed that the historical accuracy of the period felt well researched. Sue felt that the book was a nice, easy read overall.
Margaret was less persuaded and Chloe’s feelings were somewhat mixed. Margaret felt that the plot was largely predictable with some others in agreement to varying extents. Margaret found the book to be a good read but ultimately unsatisfying. As well as feeling a little peeved about the direction that the book took, Chloe felt that the ‘spirit of the times’ which others enjoyed had been told better by other authors such as Maureen Lee. Interestingly this was the same comment she provided in respect of the final part of the last month’s book which was also set during WWII. Chloe’s other primary issue was in relation to the character of Emmy which for plot purposes appeared to deviate from her otherwise modern and forward thinking outlook. Much of the book was spent with her apologising for, and lamenting an action which in Chloe’s view was wholly justified and did not warrant the reaction provoked by a number of the other characters. Whilst not wishing to provide significant spoilers, Chloe felt that the action was shoehorned in to provide a tenuous overriding plot which jarred with her. A story told about Emmy’s career, workplace and her daring actions as Mrs Bird would have been must more in keeping with the characterisation. Despite this, Chloe did agree with Sue in that the book was easy to read and overall fairly enjoyable.
Kirsten Ing also found the book to be interesting and like Naomi found it evocative of family memories of the war. Kirsten did however feel that it would have been preferable for some of the lesser characters to have been fleshed out a little further, especially those of a less privileged background. When discussed privately later, Kirsten also agreed with Chloe that with hindsight the character change shown in Emmy was strange and that she did indeed have little to be apologising for.
The overall feeling about the book could be described as ‘middle of the road’. Generally considered to be a good and easy read, it didn’t set anybody’s world on fire with the scores given out of 10 not exceeding 7. The time period of the book was the most endearing aspect along with Emmy’s (mostly) modern outlook on life. The ‘Mrs Bird’ aspect of the plot was a bit of a letdown and possible opportunity missed with a rather abrupt ending.
6.5 out of 10
Importantly we’re not a scary intellectual Bookclub!
We read a wide range of different books including chick lit, biographies and other non-fiction, thrillers and the occasional classic. We do obviously chat about the books; what we liked, what we didn’t and sometimes segway into issues raised in the book. We don’t generally come armed with lists of high-brow questions! We also share recommendations of other books we’ve read and occasionally gather at someone’s house to watch a film or TV adaptation of something we’ve liked.
Overall we have a great time socialising and a bit of a discussion about the book. We all occasionally fail to actually read or finish the book but that’s no problem either, we still tend to turn up and find out what we’ve missed (or not as the case may be!) Most of all Book Club is a great opportunity to get to know a smaller, more intimate group of the East Dulwich WI.
How It Works
Each month one member brings a shortlist of books. We narrow down the books democratically using two round of voting. We generally select books at least 2 months in advance to give us ample opportunity to read them around our schedules.
42 East Dulwich Road, London, SE22 9AX
There is absolutely no requirement to buy food or drink although most of us find we can’t resist the temptation! They do however cater easily for veggie, vegan and gluten free diets.
New Readers Welcome
For details please email Kirsten or Chloe.