Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce is published with Picador and is the second book featuring aspiring journalist Emmeline (Emmy) Lake. It is described as ‘every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as AJ Pearce’s debut, Dear Mrs Bird…..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’. I haven’t read Dear Mrs Bird but I needn’t have worried as Yours Cheerfully provides a very rounded backstory, providing new readers with sufficient information to pick up where Dear Mrs Bird left Emmy Lake.
Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, Yours Cheerfully is a story about women and their fight to be acknowledged and respected. These brave and selfless women worked hard in the munitions factories covering varied shifts but for some it was just too much. As the Ministry of Information attempts to gather momentum with its recruitment drive of female workers, they call on the services of women’s magazines to assist them put the message out there.
Emmy Lake works for Woman’s Friend magazine and, following the departure of its agony aunt columnist, Mrs Bird, Emmy gets an opportunity to take on more responsibility. Emmy is excited but also very nervous. Her reputation hasn’t been the best in the past and now Emmy is ready to grab this second chance and become the journalist she always dreamed of being. Emmy gets an opportunity to visit one of the munitions factories and, although very much taken with the camaraderie of the women, she is shocked at the manner in which they are treated. These women are pulled in all directions and, while wanting to assist in the war effort as much as they can, they have become quite disillusioned by the expectations placed on them. Emmy soon finds herself back on dangerous territory. While wanting to do what is expected of her, she also sees the human side of the suffering these women shoulder and Emmy, never afraid to face a challenge, must decide how best to help, mindful of her new responsibilities as a trusted employee of Woman’s Friend.
Aside from her work for the magazine, Emmy also volunteers with the fire service. Loyalty and friendship are very important to Emmy, as is so very obvious in her relationship with her boyfriend Charles and childhood friend Bunty. Emmy very much believes that everyone needs to pull together, everyone must make sacrifices, including herself.
The women in the factories are paid less, expected to sort out childcare, run households and basically be available to work any shift over a 24-hour period. Emmy can see the strain this is having and her conscience plays with her. Can she really promote and encourage women to work in such an imbalanced environment? Can she, as a journalist, do more?
As Emmy grapples with these questions, and with the turn of events in her personal life, she has to dig deep and find the strength to be true to her own beliefs but also be mindful of the chaos descending on the world around her.
Yours Cheerfully is a very sweet and enjoyable read, with the indefatigable Emmy Lake a wonderful central character. Packed with plenty of feel-good and heart-warming moments, Yours Cheerfully is an uplifting story of courage and optimism during challenging times, something we can all relate to at the moment.
(c) Swirl and Thread
Order your copy online here.