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...