Dear Mrs. Bird (Pearce) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. "There’s nothing that can’t be sorted with common sense and a strong will," (page 36) begins the description of Mrs. Bird’s column, Henrietta Helps. In theory, that’s not such a bad approach, but how does it fall short of addressing her readers’ concerns?

2. Why does the memory of her friend Kitty’s experience affect Emmy so strongly? How does it inform her actions?

3. Author AJ Pearce incorporates charmingly old-fashioned expressions to help convey a sense of the time period. What were some of your favorite terms? Did the language help your understanding of the era and the characters’ personalities?

4. Mr. Collins advises Emmy, "Find out what you’re good at…and then get even better. That’s the key," (page 54). Is this good advice for Emmy? Does she follow it?

5. Why does Emmy hesitate to tell Bunty about writing to Mrs. Bird’s readers? Is she only worried about Bunty’s disapproval, or is it more than that? How do secrets affect their friendship throughout the novel?

6. Do you think Emmy was right to confront William after he rescued the two children? Was his reaction warranted? Why do you think they took such different views of the event?

7. One of the major themes of the novel is friendship. Discuss Emmy and Bunty’s relationship, and all the ways they support and encourage each other over the course of the novel.

8. After the bombing at Café de Paris, Bunty is distraught and angry, but is some of her critique of Emmy fair? Does Emmy interfere too much?

9. Whether it’s readers writing in to Mrs. Bird, Charles writing to Emmy, or Emmy writing to Bunty, letters are of great importance throughout Dear Mrs. Bird. How does letter-writing shape the narrative?

10. The letter from Anxious on page 239 strikes a chord with Emmy. She thinks, "How often did we say well done to our readers? How often did anyone ever tell women they were doing a good job? That they didn’t need to be made of steel all the time? That it was all right to feel a bit down?" (page 243). How did the book make you think differently about women’s experiences in wartime?

11. Emmy’s mother says to her, "Once this silly business is all sorted, you and Bunty and all your friends will be able to get on and achieve whatever you want" (page 86). How much do you think expectations have changed for young women since World War II? What careers do you think Emmy and Bunty would aspire to if they were young now?

12. In the Author’s Note (page 277), AJ Pearce describes how reading advice columns in vintage magazines inspired her to write Dear Mrs. Bird. She says, "I found them thought-provoking, moving, and inspirational, and my admiration for the women of that time never stops growing.… It is a privilege to look into their world and remember what incredible women and girls they all were" (page 278). Discuss how magazines, then and now, provide a unique window into people’s lives.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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