Fiction, Historical, Social Themes

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

The Emmy Lake Chronicles #2, sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird

This summer, when I was desperately struggling to find a book to lose myself in, I turned to sequels of my favorites because I knew they wouldn’t disappointment. Yours Cheerfully is a very fitting and enjoyable follow up to Dear Mrs. Bird.

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
From the author of the “jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People) and international bestseller Dear Mrs. Bird, a new charming and uplifting novel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist.

London, November 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as Dear Mrs. BirdYours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship–a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

“Darling,” said my mother, “I’ll put a penny to a pound that nothing has changed since factories in the last war. Thousands of perfectly capable women being managed by a lot of silly old men without an ounce of sense between them.”

Review

My New Year’s goal for 2022 is to write more book reviews, or I guess to really get back to writing book reviews. But I haven’t felt like writing in months. And yet, there are so many books I want to share. I read a lot of sequels in 2021, more so than usual. I typically read a first book and then when the second, or third or fourth, comes out, I’ve either lost interest, or completely forgotten what happened in the first. However, this past August and September, when life was hard, I wanted nothing more than to curl up with something familiar, something I knew I liked, with relatively low stakes.

Enter Yours, Cheerfully, part of my new favorite subgenre of mid-century feminist historical fiction (to be joined in reviews later with The Kitchen Front, Bloomsbury Girls, and Lessons in Chemistry and already includes The Jane Austen Society). I didn’t realize how much I needed this subgenre, or self-invented subgenre, of historical fiction right now. Read in succession with the three aforementioned titles, I have not stopped thinking about them in the months since I finished them.

Initially, I complained about Yours, Cheerfully in a manner similar to how I complained about Dear Mrs. Bird – for a World War II novel, they were almost too cheerful. I know. Why am I complaining about something that brings me joy when the world is going to shit? Because apparently that’s what I did this year. Complain. But, as usual when it comes to my complaints, I was wrong and Yours Cheerfully is a searing look into the working conditions of the young war widows who were conscripted into war service to help their nation but were left without any support for their young children.

In 1935, a woman could get married in the UK and reasonably never have to work again. Conditions were such that a man could work to provide for and feed his family and the wife would mind the household and children. However, when war broke out and husbands enlisted or were conscripted and died, women were suddenly left to make a living wage, manage a household, and care for their small children, a situation many women find themselves in today and one that they can overwhelmingly relate to. I’ve had countless friends have children in the past two years and many have felt they had no other option but to leave the workforce to care for their children at home due to the Covid times. And lack of affordable childcare. But back to the book.

Enter our protagonist, our dear Emmeline “Emmy” Lake. Working her way up in the editorial world, Emmy is finally starting to take on lady journalist type of work over her previous work writing advice to women on the home front. While still deeply committed to offering readers of her women’s magazine honest and heartfelt advice, she jumps at the chance to pursue her dream as a journalist, while also planning an exciting war time celebration of her own.

While Emmy’s life continues to be quite “fluffy,” despite the war raging around her and in London, it is the lives of the brave women war workers that she meets that take center stage and Emmy quickly finds herself wanting to use her position to strengthen their voice in their effort for fair working hours and child care for their young children. Joining her in her efforts is, as always, her best friend Bunty, and it is a delight to see the two of them back together once more.

I’m very excited to see how A. J. Pearce continues the series as the end of the book, while concise, leaves plenty of opportunity for her to continue transporting readers to Emmy’s World War II London.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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