Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, is the book equivalent of strawberries and cream. Sweet, and a bit naughty.

I’d seen it mentioned quite a bit on the book-blogsphere and being a convert to Persephone Classics felt certain that it would be an enjoyable read. It was obviously considered to have wide enough appeal to be adapted for the big-screen, in the form of a 2008 film with Amy Adams.

The story follows a day in the life of a governess, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew who turns up on the doorstep of a glamorous and somewhat wayward young lady Miss Delysia LaFosse looking for work. Her dreary existence is turned upside-down as she is swept into the whirlwind life of Miss LaFosse and her friends.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is fundamentally a tale of self-discovery – of a woman finding out who she could have, and can be. Events unfold primarily through the perspective of Guinevere, and although it is not written in the first person, the narrative is interspersed with her observations and moments of self-doubt which I found made me feel close to her.

The story is structured in chapters which represent different timeframes in the day. This worked really well for me, as it gave me the sense of each being a unique and special moment. The book also flowed well as a result and I found myself anticipating the next adventure just as much as Miss Pettigrew. I felt caught up in her newly discovered lust for life:

“Her feet nearly tripped over themselves hurrying over the floor. She stood in front of the door for one perfect, breathless second of expectancy; then she flung it open.”

I found this such an enjoyable read. Watson balances a lighthearted tone with poignant and often quite surprising moments. I certainly didn’t expect the subject of drug-use to come up in a 1930’s novel for example. Perhaps I am misinformed and need to read some more outrageous fiction from this period! I also couldn’t help but worry for Miss Pettigrew. Throughout the book she swings through a rainbow of emotions – sadness, fear and self doubt to pure joy and bravado:

“But Miss Pettigrew was on her feet. Her tears had dried like magic. She was electrified, galvanized, quivering like a hound at the scent.”

Would she get her self into trouble? Would it all end in tears? How would such an exciting day end? Well you’ll have to read it yourself to find out.

The Persephone edition also has sweet pictures throughout which enhance rather than detract from the story:

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day admittedly is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (what book is!), but for me it was a diverting and utterly charming read as well as being a little bit inspiring…

My Rating:

8 out of 10

Have you read this book or seen the film? Has anyone read anything else by Winifred Watson that they would recommend?

20 responses to “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson

  1. I too have read Miss Pettigrew and liked it very much, but you definitely have to be in the mood for it. It’s slightly saccharine and I didn’t find a great deal of depth to it – it’s light reading for sure, but a lot better than most 21st century chick lit! I think this is true for many Persephone books to be honest – although not all, some have a huge amount of depth- and sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Have not seen the film myself, but hear it’s very good.

  2. Simon from Stuck in a bookhas lent me her novel Fell top, but I’ve yet to have a look at it! Will report back…

  3. I have done this the wrong way around and seen the film which then made me want to read the book! I shall foo soon as the film has started to fade from my memory so the characters can be mine rather than the ones on screen! having said that the film is utterly charming and has a Cinderella feel to it!

  4. I love the strawberries and cream analogy! I liken Miss Pettigrew to Champagne for exactly the same reason.

    I had forgotten about the charming illustrations and must reread this at some point (a diverting and uplifting read for a Sunday afternoon). The film adaptation is equally engaging and I thought effervescent.

  5. This has been on my wishlist for ages. Haven’t seen the film, but generally movie trailers inspire me to read the book and forget the movie!

  6. I listened to this on audio not long ago and enjoyed it a great deal, although I think I would have liked it more in print. The thing that really impressed me was how Watson could, in such a light story, offer a fair bit of depth about the characters. Miss Pettigrew’s journey has more to it than meets the eye, I think.

  7. I watched the film and loved it. It was much darker than I was expecting it to be. But I’ve heard the book is even better.

  8. Isn’t this charming? Just an all around fun read. I haven’t read anything by her, actually have no idea about her other books..

  9. I have yet to read this one, but it sounds like my cup of tea! Or should I say ‘strawberries and cream’! Great review – definitely makes me look forward to reading this book. Cheers!

  10. This book might be just what I need for an upcoming plane trip! Sounds very cute.

  11. I didn’t even know the film was based on a book. I loved the film and will be on the lookout for the book.

    • novelinsights

      See I need to do the opposite as I haven’t seen the film yet. Going to put it on my love film list!

  12. Hi! I’ve randomly stumbled upon you, and am definitely going to follow. I’ve watched the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it, and you make it sound like I’d thoroughly enjoy the book even more! Definitely on my to-read list.

    • novelinsights

      Oh how lovely – so glad you found me 🙂 The book is so great – hope you enjoy as much as the movie!

  13. This was the first Persephone book/classic I read, and I absolutely loved it. It was light-hearted enough, as well as a feel good book. Also, throughout it, I felt myself really cheering on (for lack of better words) for Miss Pettigrew. While I’m not normally a big fan of perfectly happy endings, I think this book would’ve been a let down without a happy ending, with all the loose-ends neatly tied.

  14. Pingback: Five Feel-good Books | Novel Insights

  15. Pingback: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Book / Film Comparison | A Good Stopping Point

  16. Pingback: Book & Movie: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day | Iris on Books

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