Thursday, September 9, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Yours Cheerfully by A. J. Pearce

Can it possibly be three years since I read Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce? At the time, I was so charmed by the book that I wished for a sequel. Well, here it is!

Yours Cheerfully by A. J. Pearce continues the adventures of Emmeline Lake, a plucky young woman in WWII London, just before the U.S. enters the war.

Emmy is an advice columnist for a women’s magazine called “Woman’s Friend,” an upbeat if slightly outmoded journal, now headed up by a somewhat bolder editor than Emmy’s previous boss.  The new boss, Mr. Collins, has more journalist cred and is more willing to take on tough issues. Also, he’s the elder half-brother of Emmy’s boyfriend, Charles, an army man. However, sympathetic to Emmy’s causes, Mr. Collins is constrained by the War Ministry and the financial backer of  the journal. Things have to be upbeat, patriotic, and non-critical of the government. Emmy is not given free rein. 

Emmy throws herself into her career with the same impulsive enthusiasm (and compassion) that nearly got her fired from the magazine under its previous editor. However, she has matured and is doing her best to approach challenges more professionally. She loves her job. Her boss is wonderful. And she’s in love. Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, deal with war time nastiness with a typically English humor, keeping calm and carrying on.

Even so, Emmy’s resolve not to rush into trouble again is rattled when she gets an assignment to write on female participation in the wartime workforce. It seems the patriotic women are very willing to participate. In fact, some of them are also very much in need of the paychecks (especially the war widows left high and dry by the government on measly pensions that don’t come close to supporting the children of the dead soldiers.) But women are paid less than men. And there is no support for working women with children. (It all sounds depressingly familiar.) The government nominally supports childcare (nurseries) but there are too few, the hours don’t correspond to the round-the-clock shifts the women have to work, and, worst of all, nurseries have to be requested by the factory owners. Some of these factory leaders see no need to petition the government for childcare for their workers. They figure the women should magically deal with the inconvenient kids by themselves. One boss in particular (where Emmy’s friends work) is firing women right and left while simultaneously benefitting from the government’s campaign to get more women into factory jobs.

Seen through Emmy’s compassionate (plucky) eyes, this wartime story manages to charm while also showing the hard realities faced by women on the homefront. Emmy and her friends lift each other up and help each other bear the unbearable. It’s lovely to read.

I suspect there is a book three in the offing. I hope so!

No comments:

Post a Comment