October 20, 2009

MIss Pettigrew Lives For A Day - Winifred Watson

When I wrote about buying this book so many of you told me that I would love it - and you were right! Admittedly I had already seen, and loved, the movie version of the book so I was pretty sure I would enjoy the book but as it turns out they are both quite different (as is often the way).

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is set in London at the beginning of WW2 and tells the story of a middle aged English Governess, Guinevere Pettigrew, who, after a long period of struggling to find a position she can stay in, is thrown into the path of an aspiring actress and starlet, Delysia LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew believes she is applying for yet another governess position - but Miss LaFosse has other plans for her:

Miss LaFosse's eyes swivelled round to Miss Pettigrew. Her expression became imploring, beseeching.

'Can you cook?'

Miss Pettigrew stood up.

'When I was a girl,' said Miss Pettigrew 'my father said that after my dear mother I was the best plain cook he knew'.

Miss LaFosse's face became illuminated with joy.

'I knew it. The minute I laid eyes on you I knew you were the kind of person to be relied on. I'm not. I'm no use at all. The kitchen's through that door. You'll find everything there. But hurry. Please hurry'.

Flattered, bewildered, excited, Miss Pettigrew made for the door. She knew she was not a person to be relied upon. But perhaps that was because hitherto every one had perpetually taken her inadequacy for granted. How do we know what latent possibilities for achievement we possess? Chin up, eyes shining, pulse beating, Miss Pettigrew went into the kitchen.

And so begins Miss Pettigrew's day with Miss Lafosse - a day where she is introduced to people and situations she never thought possible in any life - let alone her own - and as the day begins we see Miss Pettigrew's confidence and belief in herself grow as she deals with difficult and sensitive problem after another - with nothing but success. This book is light and yet serious at the same time, funny and yet quite grim in places - the content and narrative of the story is as opposed as the characters of Miss Pettigrew and Miss LaFosse - but it works oh so well!

Apparently the author of Miss Pettigrew had to fight for its publication - publishers were not sure it would be a hit with her readers who were used to her strong dramatic storylines - the publishers were wrong however.
The picture below is of the endpaper in the classic Persephone edition of the book and is described as 'elegant and light-hearted' - a little like the way I saw Miss Pettigrew at the end of the book...


Cath said...

How closely did the book follow the movie? (I loved the movie, too. It reminded me of an old classic from the 1930s/40s).

Karen said...

Hi Connie - The book does follow the movie fairly closely - there are some changes in how characters are introduced and there is a section from the middle of the movie which is not in the book. The ending has the same result but it comes about in a different way.

Paperback Reader said...

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is thoroughly charming and enchanting; I love it! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. I discovered Persephone Books via Miss Pettigrew and oh so grateful.

Unknown said...

I didn't even know there was a movie! You make this one sound really good - I really have to read more Persephone books!

Bloomsbury Bell said...

I loved this book - so wonderful. I haven't seen the film - maybe that is something I should save for a rainy sunday afternoon?

Steph said...

I read this just before Persephone Reading Week and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Although the movie was totally faithful to the book, I also thought it was quite well done, and the costumes were gorgeous!

Nadia said...

I just bought this book on my last trip to Knoxville and now I can't wait to read it! Your review was great - it was enthusiastic and detailed and really made me want to pick up the book and dive right in. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I have this book coming up very soon on my me few weeks off from either of my two jobs (am so excited) and am sooooo looking forward to it. Great review Karen.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, unfortunately whilst I expected to be charmed by Miss Pettigrew I have to be a grump and say I wasn't.

For me it was silly rather than fun and the attitudes expressed re Jews and Italians rubbed me the wrong way. I actually thought the movie was an improvement on the book, perhaps because I had all that period detail to distract me!

Kim said...

Thank you for the review, I enjoyed it. I have been reading a lot of WWII-ish period books and am very much looking forward to reading this now, I have it in my TBR pile so it just got elevated towards the top.

Jodie said...

I'm so glad to hear the film is good because I'll be trying that before the book. It sounds lovely and light.

claire said...

Karen, so pleased to see you enjoyed it! I really loved it, too. Although, like adevotedreader, I was a little put off about the prejudices against Jews and Italians, I never discount a book because of it, as it's a telling testament to the time and its people. It's refreshing to know we don't have that type of thinking anymore, but the important thing about reading older books is that they give us a peek into how the world was.

Which Persephone are you reading next?? :D

Anonymous said...

Lovely review! I loved this movie. Tell me: did you still picture Amy Adams and Frances McDormand? ;) I love the quote you pulled about being "the best plain cook."

Karen said...

Hi Claire - charming and enchanting are the perfect words to describe this one!

Hi Jackie - I think their catalouge could keep you going for a while!

Hi Bloomsbury Bell - I think this movie would be perfect for a Sunday afternoon - a definite pick me up.

Hi Steph - I totally agree about the costumes from the movie - the whole "look" of the movie was beautiful I thought.

Hi Nadia - Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it - and even more glad that it has made you want to read this one sooner!

Hi savidgereads - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did - looking forward to hearing what you think...

Hi adevotedreader - I completely understand what you mean about the racist commentary in the book - they did take me aback and offend me too. I guess I read them in the context of the time the book was written - certainly not an excuse though.

Hi Kim - I am really enjoying reading books set in this time period too - what are some other good ones you have read lately??

Hi Jodie - I was really glad that I had seen the movie before I read the book. I normally like to do it the other way around!

Hi Claire - I completely agree with what you say - although unfortunately I would say some of these attitudes do still exist in some people. I will move on to my other purchased P book now but I will have to think about that mail order service pretty soon I think!!

Hi eveningreader - I had Amy and Frances in mind the whole way through! Fortunately I think they were perfectly cast so it wasn't a problem!

JaneGS said...

I saw a trailer for the movie on the Atonement dvd that I just watched, and have finally realized that I would like Miss Pettigrew v much. Since I have to read the book first, it goes on the list. Glad to hear it is a good read--I hadn't heard of it before the movie came out.

Anonymous said...

Hello, yup this paragraph is genuinely good and
I have learned lot of things from it on the topic of blogging.


Here is my page - raspberry ketone diet