Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an absolutely charming story. Reading it put me in mind of those old B&W films from the 1930s with handsome leading men and elegant actresses dressed to the nines who manage to get into madcap situations, but it all ends happily. It's the perfect book for a dreary day or a little pick-me-up. It's fairy tale for grownups really, and I loved it.
Frumpy and forty, poor Miss Pettigrew is barely getting by. She's on her last penny and the rent is coming due. Her last hope is to find work as a governess. When she's given the name and address of a Miss LaFosse, her world will change forever. She expects to apply for a job looking after children, but Miss LaFosse is anything but matronly. She's greeted at the door by a beautiful young woman in a negligee who's in a bit of a tight spot. There's a young man in her bed, and she needs to get rid of him. It's all quite shocking for Miss Pettigrew, but she rises to the challenge. No sooner is one man out the door than another is knocking to come in.
The story takes place over the course of a day and each chapter covers a few hours. Miss Pettigrew truly does live for a day. In a day she'll be transformed from a lonely, middle-aged woman to someone who's beautiful in her own right and no longer alone. While Guinevere (Miss P.) helps Delysia (Miss L.) juggle her entourage of men, Delysia will take Guinevere under her wing. Miss Pettigrew had a very conservative upbringing, but she's bright. It's almost comical how she manages to help Delysia out of scrapes and choose the right man. And maybe there is even a happy ending for Miss Pettigrew, too.
The book was originally published in 1938 and must have raised a few eyebrows--such decadence. But it is really a very lovely story and I bet it was very appealing to readers then, too. Iliana recently posted a few passages from the book, so go check those out. The book is now published (was rediscovered actually) by Persephone Books. Happily this is one of the titles they've chosen to reissue as a "Persephone Classic" with new cover designs. They'll be available in bookstores here in the US (yay--since postage from the UK is rather exorbitant), and already Amazon is selling Miss Pettigrew for the low price of just over $10, so no need to feel guilty being tempted by the book! And don't forget the upcoming movie version. You can see the trailer here. The movie looks as yummy to watch as the book was to read!