Monday, August 25, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This review is for a book I read earlier in the summer, but since I am currently in between books I have no current books to review. Even so, I thought some of you might find this book interesting and didn't want to miss the chance to post my thoughts.

You might recognize the name of this book because a film adaptation was released in theatres earlier this year and then to DVD just last month. There was little said about the movie when it was in the theater, but I did see a review in a magazine, though I never made it to the theater.

It was actually because of the movie that I was prompted to read the book. A friend and I were discussing books we wanted to read and she mentioned that she was curious about the story and wanted to read the book while she waited for the movie to come out on video. There is very little information available about this book, but what I could find made me curious to read it myself.

As you can guess by the title, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, is a story that follows just one day in the life of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew. On this particular day Miss Pettigrew, a dowdy middle-aged governess, is at a job agency looking for a new job. The agency gives her two job postings -- one is for a maid and the other for a nanny/governess. Based on her experience Miss Pettigrew immediately takes up the information for the latter. She is requested to go to the home of Miss Delysia Lafoose for a personal interview. Miss Pettigrew can't help but find this information a little unusual since the job posting is for a nanny and it appears that her new employer is unmarried... (after all it is only the 1930s!) Nevertheless, Miss Pettigrew sets off to meet Miss Lafoose and arrives at the home promptly at the time requested, but when the door opens Miss Pettigrew is in for a surprise.

Each chapter of Miss Pettigrew is a segment of time during that day, with the last chapter ending shortly before the next day is to begin. I have found it hard to sum up the story, except to say that throughout the story the reader follows Miss Pettigrew as she undergoes a sort of "psychological makeover" while at the same time she puts her new employer through a sort of "lifestyle makeover" by putting a little order into an otherwise unruly existence.

I found this book to be a fun, very charming story and a quick read (only taking me three evenings to finish). The copy I had was purchased by my local library (upon request) and is published by Persephone Books. The book was 234 pages and includes some fun pen/ink drawings.

Originally published in 1938, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one of only four books written by Winifred Watson. Ms. Watson took up writing while working as a secretary who had too much time on her hands. Her stories were almost an instant success across Britain, but her career as a writer was short lived. Ms. Watson gave up writing after the birth of her son in 1941. You can read more about her at the Persephone Books website.

While I applaud Ms. Watson for setting aside her career to raise a family, I have to say it is a shame she wasn't able to fit writing into her life at some point. Based on reading just one of her works I can say that her writing style is good, but easy to follow. Her books are witty and clever with unique story plots and just as unique characters. I highly recommend adding this to your "To Read List", especially if you have any interest in watching the movie.

Post Script: Because of the era of the book and the night life led by certain people there are one or two things that might come as a surprise to the reader. Language is very mild, but not completely wholesome, one or two words here mostly British in nature. Also the mention of drugs (but only in passing). I didn't feel that any of these disrupted my reading, but I did feel I should post a warning.


DebD said...

I am someone who is interested in seeing the movie and the book sounds delightful. I'm always looking for something light and fun to counter some of the other more serious books.


Sarah M. said...

Update: You can read my review of the film here: