Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

A knock on Miss LaFosse’s door heralded adventure. It was not like an ordinary house, when the knocker would be the butcher, or baker or candlestick-maker. A knock on Miss LaFosse’s door would mean excitement, drama, a new crisis to be dealt with.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics), by Winifred Watson, is my first Persephone ever, and I must preface this review by saying that the book itself is really quite lovely, with charming original illustrations and smooth, creamy pages. I know it’s silly, but the feel of the book always colors my experience somehow.

Middle-aged governess Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is at the end of her rope financially when she arrives the the doorstep of Miss LaFosse via an employment agency. Once the door opens, however, she is swept up in the drama and excitement of the young starlet’s world. For one day Miss Pettigrew encounters people and situations entirely new to her sheltered life, gains the confidence to deal competently with crisis, and learns that there is more to both life and herself than meets the eye.

(image from Amazon)

The blurb bills Miss Pettigrew as a Cinderella story, which is true, by the joy is that the author leaves us wondering which of the pair is the fairy godmother and which Cinderella. In such a short span of time the two ladies develop a delightful symbiotic relationship.

Throughout the book I couldn’t help but visualize the scenes as a 1930’s madcap movie, though apparently the only film version is recent. I believe Mrs. Watson intended parts of the book to come off as glamorous, especially to Miss Pettigrew, for whom the pictures are a single weekly indulgence in a life of virtue. We see that her life experiences and strict upbringing have given her much wisdom, but little enjoyment.

At one point Miss Pettigrew reflects that “she wanted to know who Tony was and why he had left Miss Dubarry, but she was also beginning to have a lost, forlorn feeling that all these exciting people, with their experiences and adventures, should only touch her life for one short period.” Sometimes I feel that way myself about the characters encountered vicariously through reading. Not that life is boring, but why should fiction have all the mystery and excitement? Miss Pettigrew’s story reminds us that such things are half opportunity, and half the choices we make ourselves.

This title is on the 1001 Books lists as well. I will have to keep an eye out to see if the library has the rest of the Persephone classics. None of the other titles seem to be available over here, but perhaps someday.

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Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I really liked this – Miss Pettigrew is delightful, and I love the friendship which springs up between her and Miss LaFosse. The film isn’t nearly as good.

  2. […] Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson. A fun Cinderella story for […]


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