Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce (2018)
Emmy Lake thought she was applying for a journalist position at a newspaper, but instead finds herself typing letters for advice columnist Henrietta Bird in WWII London. When Mrs. Bird refuses to answer some letters due to their unpleasant nature, Emmy takes it upon herself to try to help.
I absolutely loved this charming book and flew through it in just a few hours. It was a wonderful combination of heart and humor, lightheartedness and deep emotion. Emmy is a lovely main character - she's spunky and plucky, always wanting to help others but maybe not going about it in the right way. I loved her empathy for the people writing letters to Mrs. Bird, hoping to get advice. It's wartime and people have all sorts of new concerns and problems, but they're also still facing life's everyday problems. Emmy doesn't think it's fair to ignore them, so she starts writing back to them, without Mrs. Bird's permission.
Emmy is surrounded by a cast of characters that I adored just as much as her. From her best friend Bunty, to her love interest Charles, to her boss Mr. Collins, they each added so much to the book. Pearce's writing and use of language really evoked the time period, and she captured so well the horror of the Blitz and the resiliency of Londoners during trying times. 4.5 stars
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)
In 1946, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a man purporting to be a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which begins her journey of learning about this German-occupied community in the British Isles and how its inhabitants coped during the war.
I thought this book was lovely, particularly the first half when Juliet starts corresponding with members of the Guernsey Literary Society. Although the society started as a fluke, the members really came to rely on it, and I enjoyed reading about how books got them through tough times. Each character was richly developed and had a unique backstory. One of the best characters was a woman named Elizabeth; although she doesn't write any letters in the book, we learn about her through others. She was clearly a big part of the community and a hero.
The descriptions of Guernsey were amazing; I felt like I was really in this little community. My only quibble was actually with Juliet; although I enjoyed her and loved her passions for books and writing and Guernsey, I thought she was too witty. Sometimes it sounded like she was trying too hard. 4 stars