Winifred Watson – Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

21Dec09

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a delightful book centring around a middle-aged prudish governess, who has no money and desperately needs a job to click. One morning, a serendipitous incident sees her knock on the door of a beautiful young cabaret singer, instead of a household abound with ill-disciplined children, for a job. However, she never gets an opportunity to state her purpose, but gets caught up in the dramatic life of Miss LaFosse instantaneously.

Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew are as different as night and day – the former has numerous lovers, a frivolous lifestyle and many-a-friend, whereas Miss Pettigrew is alone, and in her own words, some day she would be, with no home, no friends, no husband, no children. Yet, as they say, opposites attract, and that certainly holds true for these two women who might as well have come from totally different planets. Caught up in the wonder of Miss LaFosse’s lifestyle, Miss Pettigrew allows herself to be “made up”, wears fancy gowns, and goes to a cocktail party as well as a night club – each second of the day lifts her morale and confidence a little bit more. She thinks quickly on her feet, resolves tiffs, freely gives relationship advice, and ends up seeming a whole lot worldlier than she actually is.

The book, spanning twenty-four hours, literally describes how Miss Pettigrew “lives for a day,” and how she’s resigned to her fate of misery and loneliness.

Oh, if only for once the Lord would be good and cause some miracle to happen to keep her here, to see for one day how life could be lived, so that for all the rest of her dull, uneventful days, when things grew bad, she could look back in her mind and dwell on the time when for one perfect day, she, Miss Pettigrew, lived.

This is one of those feel-good books, where you just have a giant smile on your face while reading it. The dialogue is witty, the writing clever, and the words literally lift off the page and dance in front of the reader. Miss Pettigrew is not a typical hero, but, you just want her to have her day!

While this book was written in the 1930s (1938), the environment and narrative seems relatively modern. The women have a flair for the dramatic, and their enthusiasm and frivolity (for lack of better words) is contagious.

It’s no use, we women just can’t help ourselves. When it comes to love we’re born adventurers.

Still, you do wonder about quotes like the below (which is probably the most blatant hint that the book was published pre-World War II):

I wouldn’t advise marrying him. I don’t like jumping to conclusions but I think there was a little Jew in him. He wasn’t quite English.

Rating: A-

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11 Responses to “Winifred Watson – Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day”

  1. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is wonderfully charming and definitely feel-good and a comfort read.

    It is very much a product of its time in the little moments of anti-semitism (which were removed from the film).

  2. I am a recent convert to Persephone, and so I haven’t read Miss Pettigrew yet. It sounds like a book I’ll fall in love with, despite the unfortunate markers of the time in which it was written.

    • I probably should’ve mentioned this in the post: this is my first Persephone, and I did really enjoy it. I’ll be seeking out more Persephones in the new year. The anti-Semitism isn’t great, but, hindsight is a beautiful thing. Probably, back in the day, people approved of that kind of thing.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your first comment here :)

  3. I just followed the link to your blog from the comment you left on mine from Claire @ Paperback Reader’s Rosie’s Riveters link. And now that I’m here, I think I’ll stay for a while and subscribe! Excellent stuff :-)

    • Thanks for stopping by. I really hope you enjoy your stay.

      ‘Twas the first time I was on your blog as well, and I immediately added it to Google Reader. See you around :))

  4. I read this book earlier this year. I took a while to warm to i, but though it had a certain charm to it.

  5. Oh dear. I shall have to type better in future:

    I read this book earlier this year. I took a while to warm to it, but thought it had a certain charm to it.

    • It did – it was just easy to read, and extremely feel-good. Sometimes, you need books like that – specially with Christmas in the air, I’ve not quite been in the mood for reading something heavy and serious. This fit the bill perfectly.

      • Indeed! I haven’t read for the last couple of days because the pile was looking unseasonally dark and heavy.

        Mm. Persephone… Sounds good, but guess what? My TBR just doubled in size! Hope you have had some good books for Christmas :)

  6. @Sarah : Hope the doubling means some good books for the new year. I got way too many unread books at the moment.

    Yeah, think from next year, I need to make a “holiday” booklist… keep it light and merry!


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