Initially picking this book up due to the pretty floral edges, blush pink front cover, and lovely old typewriter on the front – shallow I know – I actually finished this book quite a few days ago now, making this the longest intermission I’ve had between finishing a book and writing a review on it! Honestly, I’ve just been a bit distracted with work, and an interview I had recently for a new job, so the delay is not a reflection on the book itself, I promise!
True to its name, ‘Yours Cheerfully’ was a delightful read that did indeed cheer me up, a welcome upbeat and positive constant amidst a particularly stressful couple of days!
Set in the midst of World War II, I already knew I was going to enjoy this book, having always been particularly intrigued by wartime, and the patriotic culture, cheerful atmosphere, and immense strength of the nation in a time that is hard for me to even really imagine ever happened. This story depicts the wartime effort of women, tasked with continuing their household duties with the men out at war, whilst also doing their bit in factory and administrative work to propel England’s chances of winning.
A first person narration from the perspective of Emmy – a young woman working at a women’s magazine– the plot is prompted by a rather unexpected phone call and subsequent visit to the Ministry of Information. Enlisted by the government to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort, encouraging women through their magazine articles to go to work in the factories, their magazine now appears to have a much more important purpose. Inspired by such a heavy responsibility, Emmy is full of wonderful ideas of how to do this, and coincidentally meets Anne on a train one day – a young widow and mum of both a toddler and a baby, due to start work in a munitions factory. There blossoms a touching friendship as Emmy gets to know her story and experiences for publication in Woman’s Friend.
However, as Emmy comes to discover, women are facing many more challenges than the wider public even knows about. It simply isn’t as straightforward as going to work and doing their bit. Unexpectedly, Emmy is faced with a difficult moral dilemma. Can she continue her non-wavering praise of women working – where her articles are getting attention and noteworthy commendation in high places – or is there more she has to do to truly be a Woman’s Friend in a time when they need it most?
The main protagonist and full of optimism, hope, creativity and motivation, Emmy was a particularly charming character to follow along with and was incredibly loveable. My favourite character, however, was Emmy’s best friend – Bunty – a young woman who carries herself with a limp, having been caught in one of the many bombings of London, where her fiancé was killed right next to her.
Despite the heart-wrenching backstory, Bunty displays the same cheerfulness as Emmy, a wonderfully loyal friend to everyone, and a real life-line to many of the women in the story. Yet, although it is not delved into much by A J Pearce, it is obvious Bunty’s character is multi-faceted, having had so much taken from her in the war that she continues to remain patriotic about – because she has no choice. If there is one criticism of the book, it’s that I would have liked the hidden depths of these characters to be explored a bit more – but then again I guess it is purely meant to be an uplifting genre!
Would I recommend?
Kind of yes, and kind of no. While I did only take a couple of days to read this one, finding it incredibly addictive and therapeutic in its light-hearted nature, it was far from thrilling. In fact, other than the pretty straightforward storyline, not much actually happens in the book now I think about it… Regardless, A J Pearce has somehow pulled it off, because despite the laid-back plot, I found it really engaging and thoroughly enjoyed it!
In saying that, if you get bored easily, or need to be constantly kept on the edge of your seat and thrilled by the things you read, then maybe give this one a miss. But if you enjoy wartime atmosphere and the old ethos of pulling together – and similarly love a positive and relaxing read that makes you smile every so often, then yes, I would recommend Yours Cheerfully!