Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
Yours Cheerfully, about a young employee of a women's magazine in WWII England, is a sequel to the delightful Dear Mrs. Bird. Charmingly humorous, but unflinching about the war's human tragedies, it follows the adventures of Emmy Lake as she grows into new responsibilities at Woman's Friend.
The magazine's content is relentlessly upbeat, especially after the Ministry of Information calls on the nation's women's magazines to encourage their readers to take factory jobs making munitions and other supplies for the war effort. Amid the dire threat to their country, neither Emmy nor the magazine's editor question the appropriateness of writing articles with this patriotic aim. Emmy is still mourning friends who died in the Blitz, and the man she loves serves in the military and could be called up to fight at any time.
But when her reporting reveals the extreme hardship of many of the women factory workers, Emmy is torn. She meets a war widow who no longer receives her husband's pay and must work to feed herself and her children, but cannot find reliable child care. The mission of Woman's Friend is to help women, but government bureaucrats and factory managers are focused simply on herding more women into factory work and are quick to condemn as unpatriotic those who are faced with financial stress, childcare dilemmas, and fear for loved ones in the military.
Although with Emmy's office antagonist gone from the scene, the tension in Yours Cheerfully may not be quite as sharp as in Dear Mrs. Bird, Emmy is as winning a heroine as ever. Women today also struggle with child care, financial stress, and threats to life and health; this story offers a heartening message of women's power to create change. (2021; 281 pages)More about Yours Cheerfully at Powell's Books or The Book Depository