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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone…
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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics) (original 1938; edition 2008)

by Winifred Watson

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1,6671224,308 (4.11)409
Member:Becchanalia
Title:Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics)
Authors:Winifred Watson
Info:Persephone Books (2008), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:Read 2011, Humour, Aging, 1930s, England: London

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (Author) (1938)

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
Why have I never heard of this book before? First published in 1938, Miss Pettigrew’s day starts when her employment agency sends her to the wrong address. What follows is twenty-four hours of epiphanies in which she learns about life, courtesy of a nightclub singer. ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson was a revelation and has quickly claimed its place as one of my favourite novels.
Miss Pettigrew is a governess, not a very good one, and finds herself forced to take jobs as a housemaid or looking after children she would rather not know. Then one day an error leads her to the apartment of Delysia LaFosse, a nightclub singer with a complicated love life. She tries to tell Miss LaFosse she has come about the job, but Miss LaFosse does not listen. As the story progresses, no children appear, but by now Miss Pettigrew is proving adept at solving Delysia’s small difficulties.
On the surface, this is a frothy story of gowns, flirting, lipstick, negligées and men, suitable and unsuitable. Beneath the surface, it is a novel about throwing away the bounds of class and venturing into the unknown. It is about taking a deep breath and being brave in order to change your life. I was rooting for Guinevere Pettigrew and was particularly pleased with the ending, as I am sure she was too.
My enjoyment of the novel was supplemented by the gorgeous line drawings, this edition by Persephone features the original illustrations by Mary Thomsom.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jun 22, 2017 |
In 1930s London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a forty-year-old spinster of “faded gentility”, dutifully reports to the employment office at 9:15 one drizzly November morning, and is promptly informed that two suitable positions have come up. One of them is a nursery governess job for Miss LaFosse, and Miss Pettigrew will be able to make the 10 o’clock appointment if she quickly makes her way to Onslow Mansions. Only after the spinster’s repeated knocking at the door of the opulent residence does the young and lovely Delysia LaFosse answer the door, wearing a negligee and looking as though she has walked off a movie set. The job is not discussed because Miss LaFosse has a more urgent problem: she needs help getting rid of one man before another arrives. Miss LaFosse is an actress and a singer with a lot of irons in the fire. She has to hedge all her bets: if one man won’t back her next gig, another needs to be lined up who will. And then, of course, there’s the fellow in the background who wants to marry her.

Miss LaFosse has so much going on at her residence that there’s no time to discuss what Miss Pettigrew is even there for. She conveniently poses as the young woman’s friend and ends up staying for a very busy, active, transformational day, full of romance and glamour and attention.

Many readers have been charmed by this light, frothy confection. Certainly, Winnifred Watson has created a number of clever situations and much witty repartee. I wanted to like the book, and, in fact, I think I did like the first third. After that, though, I just got tired of the whole idea. I got it: an aging spinster has a fairy-tale dream day. Being seen in quite a different light by others, being required to improvise and act a part, she discovers herself to be more than she thought.

This wasn’t an entirely unpleasant read, but, after a point, I just wanted it to be over. I knew, based on the whole set-up and tone, it couldn’t possibly end badly for our protagonist. Although rather racy for the 1930s (Miss LaFosse has many lovers, one of whom uses and provides her with cocaine), the book is nevertheless very much a product of its time. It is not politically correct, and, in fact, contains a couple of jarring anti-Semitic remarks. Miss Pettigrew disapproves of one of Miss LaFosse’s lovers because he has traces of “the Jew” in him and isn't quite English.

Were Winnifred Watson’s other novels readily available (I don't believe they are), I would make no effort to seek them out. As I said, many have found this book delightful, but I found the whole thing wore thin pretty quickly. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jun 4, 2017 |
Sweet and charming. Nice for a change of pace. Written in 1938 it's a bit racier than you would expect but Miss Pettigrew is delightful. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Former governess Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is out of work, aged 40, and headed for the workhouse. A job agency sends her for a job to an incorrect address which turns out to be the home of Delysia LaFosse, a glamorous nightclub singer. There, Miss Pettigrew gets caught up in the life of Delysia, who is involved with three different men. Throughout what is the best day of her life she has many new experiences, and through it all is able to dispense her practical advice to the delight of Delysia and her friends. Taking into account that this was written in 1938 with the attitudes of the time, this is a charming book that I would read again and highly recommend. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Nov 19, 2016 |
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY follows a middle-aged governess on her first day as she takes on a new charge - the nightclub singer Delysia LaFosse. Miss Gwenivere Pettigrew has lived her entire life according to what a "lady" does and does not do. As a result, she is lonely, poor, frumpy, deathly bored, and entirely unsatisfied.

In the 24 hours she spends with Miss LaFosse, Miss Pettigrew begins to experience modern life for all that it has to offer. She attends parties, receives a makeover, experiences romance, and meets people from very different social stratagem. Because she is older than Delysia, Miss Pettigrew can offer her a more mature and grounded perspective on social situations, and her advice comes in handy on multiple occasions.

There is quite a transformation in Miss Pettigrew, and the story can seem very much like a modern day fairy tale. The book is certainly not based on real life, and the heightened emotions and actions of the characters make for a rather enchanting read. The most significant drawback to the story is that modern audiences may take offense to certain aspects of it. For example, Miss Pettigrew has a certain prejudice against Jewish people, which she states outright. Also, the book does not really hold up to a feminist reading. The ways that Miss Pettigrew gains confidence and takes control of her life are primarily through the influence of looser morals, alcohol, a makeover, and better clothes.

This book is a fun, plot-driven, quick read. I devoured it in two sittings. It's certainly a product of its time, but is highly worth your reading time. ( )
  BooksForYears | Jul 23, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Watson, WinifredAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McDormand, FrancesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murillo Fort, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thomson, MaryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Twycross-Martin, HenriettaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Miss Pettigrew pushed open the door of the employment agency and went in as the clock struck a quarter past nine.
Quotations
In a dull, miserable existence her one wild extravagance was her weekly orgy at the cinema, where for over two hours she lived in an enchanted world peopled by beautiful women, handsome heroes, fascinating villains, charming employers, and there were no bullying parents, no appalling offspring to tease, torment, terrify, harry her every waking hour.
What dangerous den of vice had she discovered? She must fly before she lost her virtue. Then her common sense unhappily reminded her that no one, now, would care to deprive her of that possession.
A knock on Miss LaFosse's door heralded adventure. It was not like an ordinary house, where the knocker would be the butcher, or baker or candlestick-maker. A knock on Miss LaFosse's door would mean excitement, drama, a new crisis to be dealt with. Oh, if only for once the Lord would be good and cause some miracle to happen to keep her here, to see for one day how life could be lived, so that for all the rest of her dull, uneventful days, when things grew bad, she could look back in her mind and dwell on the time when for one perfect day, she, Miss Pettigrew, lived.
All these years and she had never had the wicked thrill of powdering her nose. Others had experienced that joy. Never she. And all because she lacked courage. All because she had never thought for herself. Powder, thundered her father the curate, the road to damnation
She was not fifty yet, but some day she would be, with no home, no friends, no husband, no children. She had lived a life of spartan chastity and honour. She would still have no home or memories. Miss LaFosse would reach fifty some day. Suppose she reached it equally without home and friends. What then? How full would her memories be?
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Disambiguation notice
French title is "Cette Sacree Vertu"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 190646202X, Paperback)

Miss Pettigrew is about a governess sent by an employment agency to the wrong address, where she encounters a glamorous night-club singer, Miss LaFosse. 'The sheer fun, the light-heartedness' in this wonderful 1938 book 'feels closer to a Fred Astaire film than anything else' comments the Preface-writer Henrietta Twycross-Martin, who found Miss Pettigrew for Persephone Books. The Guardian asked: 'Why has it taken more than half a century for this wonderful flight of humour to be rediscovered?' while the Daily Mail liked the book's message - 'that everyone, no matter how poor or prim or neglected, has a second chance to blossom in the world.' Maureen Lipman wrote in 'Books of the Year' in the Guardian: 'Perhaps the most pleasure has come from Persephone's enchanting reprints, particularly Miss Pettigrew, a fairy story set in 1930s London'

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Miss Pettigrew, a governess looking for work, is sent by mistake to the home of Delysia LaFosse, a glamorous nightclub singer involved with three different men and is invited to stay after offering Miss LaFosse common sense advice about her love life.… (more)

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