Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Watson, W. (1938, this edition 2008). Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. London: Persephone Books.
Miss Pettigrew lives for a Day has been on my to-read list since seeing the gorgeous movie sometime in 2010 and discovering it was based on a 1938 novel that had only been recently 'rediscovered' as a modern classic. Miss Pettigrew is a single down-and-out 40ish governess who through a twist of fate is thrown into the life of nightclub singer Delysia LaFosse (real name Sarah Grub), who is balancing three lovers and is badly in need of some assistance. Spending a day in Miss LaFosse's world, Guinevere Pettigrew discovers that by staying within her social bounds, she may have missed out on living.
The storyline is pure fairytale, with Miss Pettigrew swept along in Miss LaFosse's exuberance into a world she never knew possible. This is no doubt one of the factors that makes it rather irresistible; no one can overlook a good fairytale and this one has a dose of reality that makes it all the more delightful. There are no fairy godmothers here, just a slightly naive young woman who turns to Miss Pettigrew in desperation in order to get lover 1 out of the house to make way for lover 2. The characters are all inperfect, which makes them perfect in their own way, and us as the reader long for their happy endings. And like all good fairytales, this one does end happily, with Miss LaFosse in the arms of the right man and a world of possibilities opening up for our heroine.
The original 1930's drawings are a charming edition to the story and the writing is a breath of fresh air for a lasting period piece, making honest (but not graphic) mentions of the casual sex and drinking common with a certain set at the time, rather than the chaste portrayals we often get in other classics.
On the other hand. . . when it comes down to it Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is little more than fluff. Its charm ultimately cannot completely hide its utter lack of substance. Miss LaFosse never has to suffer the repercussions of her actions and there is never any mention of drawbacks to the life devoted to pleasure many of the characters lead. Indeed, marrying in order to wait for one's husband to die and inherit his wealth/business is postively encouraged. Overall, although I was pleased to read it and enjoyed the tale, I was glad to finish it and would have been glad to finish it 50 pages earlier.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day gets 3 stars on Goodreads from me.