Desert Isle Keeper
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
My copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was a Christmas gift from my best friend. I had never before heard of the author, Winifred Watson – no wonder, as she published six novels in the 1930s and stopped writing altogether in 1943, although she did live to see the reissuing of Miss Pettigrew in 2000. I had also missed the 2008 film in spite of the fact that it starred Frances MacDormand and Amy Adams, two actresses I admire. Needless to say, my best friend knows my taste very well: I read the book in one sitting and am now afraid to watch the movie, lest it prove disappointing. The book was that good.
The novel starts on a very dreary note. Miss Guinevere Pettigrew calls at an employment agency in London, where to her great relief she is given the address of a lady looking for a nursery governess, Miss LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew is a middle-aged parson’s daughter, very much down on her luck, shy, unattractive and self-conscious. She had to put up with a great deal of humiliation at the last posts, and expects next to nothing from life. When she arrives at Miss LaFosse’s place, to her great surprise she is not handed a squalling infant, but asked by a very pretty, charming and deshabillée young lady to help her to get rid of a man who obviously just spent the night. Miss Pettigrew is equally fascinated and horrified by the situation, but her delight and gratitude at Miss LaFosse’s kindness is such that she throws her scruples overboard and wades in to save the day – not once, but several times. (To say more here would be unforgivable spoilers.)
Both main characters are utterly delightful to read about. Miss Pettigrew starts off with no self-confidence whatsoever, but in Miss LaFosse she finds someone who trusts in her, and step by step she blossoms into the person she can really be. Delysia LaFosse is a nightclub singer with a terrible taste in men, but otherwise she is wise and generous and an extremely good friend.
Although the novel is very much about the two women and their relationship, there is romance in the air as well, with the most delicious men! What I also enjoyed very much are the glimpses provided of life in London between the World Wars, and the very positive, if slightly tongue-in-cheek picture of working women at that period.
If you haven’t read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day yet, go and get it. It’s a brilliant, funny and moving novel – I can strongly recommend you read it on a grey winter’s day, because it will brighten that day considerably, but I expect it’s equally delightful on a warm summer evening. Just make sure you don’t miss out on it.