Yours Cheerfully by A.J. Pearce

Yours Cheerfully by A.J. Pearce

Published by Picador on 24th June

Available from West End Lane Books, All Good Bookshops and Online

What They Say

London, September, 1941. 

Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends.

What I Say

I will tell you all straight away that I utterly loved Dear Mrs Bird, the debut novel from A.J. Pearce. It was funny, wise and perfectly pitched and Emmy Lake, the heroine, was just what I needed at the time. When I heard that A.J. had written another novel with Emmy at the helm, I could not have been more delighted.

Honestly? I loved Yours Cheerfully even more. From the moment I turned the first page, you fall into wartime London and are completely immersed in the sights, sounds and realities of living in a world in a state of chaos whilst everyone in it is trying to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Emmeline Lake is still working at the Woman’s Friend magazine, but now that Mrs Bird has departed, she can breathe a sigh of relief as Mrs Mahoney who now runs the page is far more amenable and they make a formidable team.

With lots of the men away fighting in the War, the government are increasingly reliant on the women who are left behind to step up and help with the war effort. The Ministry Of Information need to recruit as many women as possible to ensure the factories can keep running, and realise that using women’s magazines to reach as many of them as possible is the way forward.

Women’s Friend is asked to be involved, and Emmy is tasked with writing about it. When she and her best friend Bunty meet a young widow called Anne with two children who is about to start working in one of them called Chandlers, Emmy realises she has the contact she needs.

However, when she goes to interview Anne and her workmates, what becomes incredibly evident is that although the government want the women to work, some factory owners have not anticipated what the women need for their welfare to be effective members of the workforce. Emmy is faced with a dilemma. Should she write the recruitment piece the government want, or could this be the perfect opportunity for her to write a crucial piece that really shows what life is like for the women who are giving everything for the war effort.

As well as juggling her demanding professional life, Emmy is totally in love with Charles, and snatching every moment they can be together. Their relationship seems to be what so many people went through in the war, where the future you once believed was certain is no longer so, and the fear that the one you love won’t return makes you realise that seizing the moment is all the more poignant. Emmy and Charles make a decision that changes their lives forever, which shows us how much they truly love each other.

I wish I could articulate how truly wonderful this novel is. It made me laugh out loud, cry, and google obsessively about the women who were part of the war effort. Make no mistake, you might think this is a light hearted and breezy take on the Second World War, but Yours Cheerfully is so much more.

The writing is sublime, and captures so insightfully what it meant to be around during the Second World War. The fact that every part of the world was dominated by it, the random and senseless loss of life, the determination and compassion that people felt as they attempted to unite against something that was far bigger than was possible to comprehend, and the grim reality that nobody knew what was going to happen next. This is also a novel that unapologetically puts women front and centre of everything. Emmy, her best friend Bunty and Anne are real and relatable women, because they have all experienced life changing events that shape them and have changed their worlds, and we know that these women are symbolic of our own families and what they would have experienced too.

What A.J. Pearce does so beautifully in this novel is make it less about facts and figures, but absolutely about the people who were dealing with the reality of living through the war. You really understand exactly what the women were going through, and how they were striving to keep home life as stable as possible, be seen to be helping with the war effort as well as worry whether they would see their partners again. They were expected to support the war effort, but tellingly the war effort often did not seem to understand how to support them.

Yours Cheerfully is an absolute joy to read. If you don’t love Emmy Lake by the end of this book, then quite frankly you must have a heart of stone. It is just the novel I needed to read at the moment, to see how instinctively and incredibly strong women were, to appreciate everything people did for my generation and to realise how far we have come for women’s rights yet how much more we have to do.

I only have one question. When is someone in T.V. Land going to realise that A.J. Pearce’s novels would make absolutely perfect television series for those gloomy winter evenings? Please make it happen – and soon!

I completely loved it.

Thank you so much to Camilla Elworthy at Picador for my gifted copy.

The Lido by Libby Page

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Libby Page: The Lido

Published By: Orion

The Lido is due to be published by Orion Books in the UK on 19th April 2018

What the Blurb Says:

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.

What I Say: 

I have to admit, lately I had fallen a little bit out of love with reading.  I had tried tackling books that people have recommended, and picked up novels that I was told were worthy and should be read.  Nothing connected with me or had me wanting to keep turning the pages.

Then I was sent a copy of The Lido.

The Lido tells the story of Kate and Rosemary, two women who live in Brixton.  Kate has recently moved there, and in spite of having a job and a place to live, she feels utterly alone.  Like Kate, I moved to a big city after my graduation, and Libby absolutely describes the reality of being a young single person trying to find your way while everyone else seems to be so together and confident.  Everything for Kate is overwhelming, and she is having panic attacks too which start to make her wonder whether she has made the right decision.  People assume that for Kate, she should be at this point, living her best life, but really at the start of The Lido, she is struggling to work out what that is.

Rosemary, a fiery and determined 86 year old, on the other hand, has always lived in Brixton.  Although she is very much a part of the local community, she has lost George, her husband and love of her life.  Rosemary is now alone, and facing overwhelming loneliness for the first time.

Rosemary’s day is punctuated by her daily visits to the local Brockwell Lido, a place of calm and serenity in a bustling, loud and chaotic Brixton.  Libby’s writing astutely shows how when Rosemary swims there, everything slots back into place, and gives her back a sense of order and reconnection with the world and the people at the Lido.

After discovering that the Council intend to sell it off to a property development company, Rosemary knows instinctively that she must campaign to keep the Lido open for her and for the community.  Kate, a junior reporter at the Brixton Chronicle, is given the task of interviewing Rosemary after her flyers come to the attention of the editor.

Rosemary tells Kate that she will only agree to an interview if Kate swims there first.  It was interesting to see how although Kate was so uncomfortable at the thought of pushing herself out of her comfort zone, when she does, she understands the effect that Rosemary’s daily swim has on her and why the Lido is so important.  We are all different, with our own experiences, hopes and dreams, but when we are swimming, at our most basic and vulnerable, we are all the same, looking for that moment of peace.  The meeting between the two women starts not only a campaign to ensure that the Lido remains open, but also a powerful and uplifting friendship that is life changing for both of them.

As the novel develops, we learn about Kate and Rosemary’s lives, and how their past experiences have brought them to this point.  Kate remembers her connection with her elder sister Erin, and how when she learnt to swim, her parent’s marriage was crumbling around them.  For Rosemary, the Lido is utterly intertwined with the very essence of who she is and how she and George lived and loved.  To lose the Lido, would mean that Rosemary would lose her place in the world, and she would also lose her last physical connection to George.

However, The Lido is not just the story of Rosemary and Kate.  Libby Page makes sure that the story of the community around Brixton is heard too.   Her writing of the world around Kate and Rosemary is vibrant, evocative and is filled with descriptions that fill all your senses as you turn the pages.  The characters around Rosemary and Kate add to the power and momentum of the story and their willingness to help them campaign against the closure of the Lido shows how when a community comes together, amazing and unexpected things can happen.

By going out and about with Rosemary, Kate also starts to realise that she now has a chance to really start living, understanding that she can truly make her way in the world and be the person she wants to be.  Reporting the Lido campaign leads to Kate getting more stories and embracing the career she loves.  She also meets Jay, a photographer, and as they work with Rosemary to save the Lido, they realise that they have an attraction to each other too.

The story of Kate and Rosemary are entwined with the stories of those who use the Lido every day, and provides a far deeper and more interesting narrative than just two women taking on a property development company.  By telling the stories of those who use the pool, we understand not only how important the Lido is to the whole community, but that everyone has a story and only by talking to each other can we learn about them, forge friendships and keep our communities alive.

The Lido is simply an absolute joy to read.

In a frantic world where we are constantly bombarded with bad news, sad news and fake news, it is so refreshing to read a novel that has love, hope and compassion at its core. The Lido is about believing in yourself and understanding that the notion of family today is far wider than ever before, and that we all ultimately want to feel is that someone cares and is listening to us.  The story of Rosemary and Kate and the Brixton community who love the Lido will stay with me for a long time, and I hope when you read Libby Page’s stunning debut, that it stays with you too.

I was given a proof copy of The Lido, in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Thank you to @RebeccaGray at Orion Books for my proof copy and a chance to take part on my first ever blog tour.

You can follow Libby Page on Twitter here

#LoveTheLido Blog Tour continues with these brilliant bloggers below:

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