In 1940 London, as the German army mercilessly bombs the city, young Emmy Lake takes a job at a women’s magazine for the advice columnist Henrietta Bird. Large and intimidating, the elderly Mrs. Bird brooks no complaints and does not accept any letters that involve “Unpleasantness.” Her list of unacceptable topics is extensive, covering anything related to sexual relations, political or religious activities, and the war. Most of her answers to her readers are some variation of “buck up and get on with things.” Emmy, dismayed by Mrs. Bird’s lack of sensitivity to modern women’s issues, decides to take matters into her own hands and reply to some letters on her own.
In the meantime, Emmy continues her volunteer efforts with the Auxiliary Fire Department, spends time with her best friend Bunty and Bunty’s fiancé William, and generally tries to figure out how best to navigate the dangers of London during the Blitz. Still, tragedy strikes, her friendship with Bunty is tested, and her subterfuge at work becomes known. In the end, it turns out that you don’t have to go to the front lines to do heroic things. Against the backdrop of a big war, Pearce has given us a small story that is charming, gently humorous, and even a little inspiring. It’s a delightful, quick read.