Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Finally I’ve managed to get around to writing up my post for this wonderful novel. It’s not the first time I’ve read it but I recently reread it, after conversing with my mother about it and the ‘new version’ of it, called Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Apparently, it’s just as ‘nice’ but I will reserve judgement until after I have read it.

For those of you who do not know the book, it tells the story of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew a forty-something spinster, mediocre governess and, ostensibly, overall failure. In a mix-up she ends up meeting Delysia LaFosse who had apparently advertised for a governess. Comically, throughout the novel, Miss Pettigrew keeps a keen eye out for any sign of the chidren she is to be in charge of, but they somehow fail to materialise. Instead, Guinevere is introduced to a string of Delysia’s lovers, friends and enemies. The scene is the roaring twenties and the world is full of glamour, cocktails and endless parties. Instead of being sent to the nursery, Guinevere is tasked with getting rid of Delysia’s abusive lover and then with reuniting two of Miss LaFosse’s friends. She herself cannot explain where the sudden knowledge of life and the sudden courage come from – although I hazard a guess that two sherries on an empty stomach might help. Miss Pettigrew’s sudden resourcefulness, her unconventional approach to things and her ability to think on her feet astonish Miss LaFosse and amuse the reader.

Needless to say (sorry for those who don’t like spoilers) this light-as-a-cream-cake novel ends happily.

However, the superficiality and glamour that make this novel so fun and frivolous also irk me slightly, which is why Miss Pettigrew will always be a guilty pleasure, to be polished off in an evening. The epitome of life is, apparently, to end up with a nice man who is rich enough to support one in style, drink cocktails and dance until 6am. And yet I can’t help but like this Cindarella-esque story, when the lovely, kind-hearted Miss Pettigrew finally finds happiness and love. I’m just a bit of a romantic after all.


Just a heads-up, I am going on holiday so won’t be posting until I get back at the end of September. Then I will have hopefully finished Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, and will have also written up posts on the other two books I have recently finished.


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