When Emmeline Lake spots an ad for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, she thinks her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent are about to come true. However, Emmy should have read the fine print, since it turns out that the job she has just landed is that of junior typist working for the Women’s Friend, a sister publication of the newspaper. Emmy’s new boss is the magazine’s redoubtable advice columnist: Henrietta Bird, and her task is to sort through all the letters Mrs. Bird receives and weed out those deemed “unpleasant.”
Emmy quickly discovers Mrs. Bird has a very broad definition of what she considers unpleasant – letters involving premarital relations, marital relations, post-marital relations, etc. – and that her typical response to those letters to which she does reply, is to tell the correspondent to “buck up and buckle down.” For a few weeks, Emmy reluctantly follows the rules by shredding the undesirable notes, but one day a poignant letter from a young woman seeking romantic advice strikes a chord with her. Before she knows it, Emmy is secretly replying to the girl as “Mrs. Bird.”
I absolutely adored this charming British debut. The author drew inspiration from real-life women’s magazines of the era, and she perfectly captures the mix of grit and pluck that Londoners exhibited as they kept calm and carried on during the German Blitz of the city. If you loved the Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal or that marvelous novel The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, you really mustn’t miss this terrific book.