REVIEW: Yours Cheerfully by A.J. Pearce

In brief: The sequel to Dear Mrs Bird finds Emmy still at Woman’s Friend magazine, reporting on women workers during World War II. But it’s not as fun as the Ministry of Information makes out…

The good: Even better than Dear Mrs Bird.

The not-so-good: Emmy is sometimes too positive for me!

Why I chose it: Intrigued by Emmy’s tales.

Year: 2021

Pages: 341

Publisher: Picador (Pan Macmillan)

Setting: England

Rating: 9 out of 10

Yours Cheerfully is the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird, published in 2018. It really does help to have read the first book in the series, as this novel jumps in right where the previous book left off. This novel doesn’t have any significant spoilers for the first. Even though I had read the first book, I had still forgotten some details and had to do a bit of searching to remind me.

Emmy Lake is still working at Woman’s Friend magazine, with a new promotion. The magazine and others like it have been tasked by the Ministry of Information to help promote women war workers to improve recruitment. Emmy takes this very seriously and pitches a series of articles of women working in munitions, based on her new friend Anne’s experiences. But then Emmy finds that presenting a wholly positive view isn’t the truth, as the women of the factory face numerous issues and sexism. Emmy is faced with a dilemma – try to help her new friends or toe the line requested by the ministry. In between that, there is a wedding to plan and personal/business relationships to maintain.

This is generally lighthearted novel, mixed with serious issues that while important, don’t bog the narrative down. Emmy has grown up since the first novel and while she is sometimes way too chipper for me, she is less likely to Capitalise Things She Believes To Be Important. However, she still uses a lot of uniquely British terms, particularly for the era. I loved these, as they reminded me of childhood Enid Blyton novels. (They are relatively easy to understand even if you’re not familiar with the terms). The focus on women’s war work not being all jolly and fun was also appreciated. It’s not something that comes up in WWII fiction – the shift work, the realities of child care, less pay for the same work and the financial difficulties of widows after their payments are reduced. The way Emmy and her friends go about challenging the status quo and managers is typical of the tone of the book, combining the serious with a lighter tone. I did enjoy the race to the wedding, battling it out against irregular train timetables and unfortunate incidents.

Overall, I liked Yours Cheerfully more than Dear Mrs Bird as the novel was more clearly structured and focused on the women workers. Emmy’s exuberance has also gone down a touch or two and is nicely balanced by her more sensible friends Bunty and Anne.

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