1. What do you make of Mr. Collins' advice to Emmeline: "Find out what you're good at, Miss Lake, and then get even better." (54) Did Emmy follow his advice?
2. Have you ever zoned out at an inopportune time? (Emmeline's interview with Mr. Collins, p.20)
3. Would you have answered the letters that Mrs. Bird designates as "unacceptable"?
4. Does the premise of a book make sense? That is, could a woman so keen on a career as a war correspondent truly find satisfaction dabbling in relationship advice? How does Emmy change or become more self-aware over the course of the book? (Is she just clueless -- about her relationship with Edmund, her argument with William, her right to reply to letters?)
5. What is the nature of the disagreement between Emmy and William and Bunty? How does the passage of time and our different culture color how we interpret the argument and outcome?
6. Which character did you fear for most during the Blitz? (Me: Thelma...and her kids...)
7. Is the nonchalant attitude of Londoners believable? ("Miss Lake, said Charles, "even if you do enjoy being a moving duck, it will make me feel better if Charles is with you. I should be most annoyed if you were blown up. I'll settle things here. Be careful..." / "Chivalry's all very well," I said through my scarf as we walked carefully along. "But if you get run over, it won't be any good for the war effort." p.104)
And if it's not believable, then does that spoil the big reveal of Emmy realizing they should be allowed to acknowledge their fear? ("I realised I didn't just feel sorry for this girl. I was proud of her. Enormously proud that she was brave enough to admit she was scared." p. 242)
8. Where did you cry? (For me, reading the series of letters from Emmy to Brunty, especially the one about William's memorial service, p. 231-2.)
9. What is Emmy's opinion of Mrs. Bird's Good Works? Also, did your sympathies for Mrs. Bird change over the course of the book?
10. How would you compare Emmy and Brunty's friendship to that of Emmy and Kathleen's?
11. Why is Emmy always saying (to William, to Bunty, to Kathleen), "you will let me explain, won't you, Kath?" (255), when they already know and disagree with the full explanation? What more ground does Emmy hope to gain?
12. What kind of punishment or reward does Emmy deserve in the end?
13. How was this book different from the story you expected to find?
So nice to see you last night to discuss Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. We enjoyed escaping into this story, even though we found some key elements a little contrived. We will still be interested in checking out the continuing story when AJ Pearce finishes her second novel! This book also inspired us to share other WWII titles we have enjoyed or been challenged by recently, including:
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Maisy Dobbs mysteries by Jaqueline Winspear
Nothing is Forgotten by Peter Golden
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Going forward, I think we're all feeling the need to read some Black literature right now. Please join us in July and August to read The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, followed by Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
Hope to see you there!
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.