Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

A quick rundown… 24 hours in the life of Miss Pettigrew that change her life.

Strengths: Very uplifting, restores faith in the human spirit.

Weaknesses: Too short!

Why I read it: Given to me in the 2010 Library Thing Secret Santa.

Pages: 234

Published: 1938

Publisher: Persephone Books

Setting: London

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

If you liked this, try: there is a movie of this book. Watson’s writings also have the charming feel of Enid Blyton.

Miss Pettigrew was a present from a Secret Santa who knows that I like books that are part of a series or set (examples: Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Popular Penguins, Vintage 21). This eagle-eyed Santa noticed that I didn’t have any of the books published by the charming Persephone Books and soon rectified this. I had heard of the movie of the same name, but didn’t realise that like most good ideas, it was originally a book. And what a charming book this is. It’s kind of like Enid Blyton for grown-ups. There’s little sketches every so often of the action and the writing is so warming and pleasing, you’d think you had stepped into a warm bath.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is 24 hours in the life of Miss Pettigrew, an out of work governess who is almost penniless and on the brink of being evicted from her lodgings. Given an address from the employment office, she makes her way to the flat of Delysia LaFosse, who is looking for a governess. When Delysia opens the door, Miss Pettigrew is thrust into a world she has only dreamed of. A world where she is loved for what she is, opinions are listened to and respected and where happiness is not an optional extra. Delysia’s life is spiralling out of control and Miss Pettigrew’s words of advice and wisdom help her to discover what she really wants. Miss Pettigrew is also responsible for reuniting an estranged couple and there is a hint of romance for her.

This book is simply told and brims over with goodness. I don’t mean it’s goody-goody; I mean that it restores your faith in the human spirit. The gaining of confidence in Miss Pettigrew is beautiful to read, from her first evening gown and hairdo to the first twinkle of interest from the opposite sex. It’s heart-warming to see and the happy ending is also just perfect. Almost a fairy tale!

Don’t think that it’s all sweetness and light though. There are some fairly heavy issues discussed, from drug use to promiscuity to alcohol. I’m sure this would have been even more daring back in 1938 when the book was first published. It’s a fairly quick read, but one that leaves you pondering long after. Thank you Secret Santa!


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