About the Book
Miss Pettigrew, an approaching-middle-age governess, was accustomed to a household of unruly English children. When her employment agency sends her to the wrong address, her life takes an unexpected turn. The alluring nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse, becomes her new employer, and Miss Pettigrew encounters a kind of glamour that she had only met before at the movies.
Over the course of a single day, both women are changed forever.
Format: Paperback (264 pages) Publisher: Persephone
Publication date: 1st February 2008  Genre: Literary Fiction, Modern Classics
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I have The Classics Club to thank for selecting Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day as the book on my Classics Club list I should read for the latest Classics Club spin.
In the introduction to my Persephone Classics edition of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, Henrietta Twycross-Martin sums up the book as ‘a very happy novel’. She argues that, unlike Winifred Watson’s previous novels, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day with its ‘sparky dialogue, no dialect, and no turgid inner life’ demonstrates an author who has ‘found her style’.
The story unfolds over the course of a day starting at 9.15am when Miss Pettigrew is sent, in error as it turns out, to the apartment of nightclub singer Delysia LaFosse. Straightaway Miss Pettigrew is jettisoned into Delysia’s complicated love life but – much to her own surprise – by adopting the personas of her many previous employers manages to rescue Delysia from one difficult situation after another. As Miss Pettigrew reflects, ‘How do we know what latent possibilities of achievement we possess?’
Delysia repays her help by introducing her to a number of her friends leading Miss Pettigrew to observe, ‘In all her lonely life, Miss Pettigrew had never realized how lonely she had been until now, when for one day she was lonely no longer’. (And if that doesn’t tug at your heart strings, I fear there’s really no hope for you.) Delysia insists Miss Pettigrew accompany her to a number of social engagements, resulting in a delightful scene in which Miss Pettigrew becomes a sensation at a cocktail party. If that wasn’t enough, she’s soon on her way to The Scarlet Peacock night club where Delysia is booked to perform (pictured right in one of the wonderful illustrations by Mary Thomson included in the Perspephone Classics edition).
By the end of the book, not only has Miss Pettigrew discovered a lot of hitherto quite unsuspected ‘frivolous tendencies’ in herself, I reckon she’s saved the day several times over as well. It won’t surprise you to know that, in this reader let alone anyone else, the utterly delightful Miss Pettigrew has just gained a new admirer.
In three words: Funny, lively, heart-warming
Try something similar: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey
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About the Author
Winifred Watson (1906 -2002) grew up in Newcastle and was a secretary until, in 1935, she married Leslie Pickering, the manager of a timber firm. She wrote ‘two rather strong dramas… but when they received a book that was fun they would not accept it. When they did publish Miss Pettigrew, I was proved right.’ Three more novels appeared, then after the birth of her son in 1941 Winifred Watson stopped writing and lived quietly in Newcastle for the rest of her life.