Reads: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day-Winifred Watson


Persephone Reading Week Challenge started today, hosted by Claire and Verity. For a refresher of the details look here. There are lots of wonderful things happening this week. You can try your hand at 2 different quizzes here and here. I’ll admit they are tough (I’m still working on one).

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics)

The first Persephone that I read for this challenge was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. It was the first Persephone I ever bought and many people have said that it was the first they’d ever read and started their love for the books. My book is a classics edition and looks just like the picture above. This book has also been made into a film which I will have to check out. I watched the trailer and it seems to be just as funny as the book.

We meet Guinevere Pettigrew a failed governess who is looking for work and has been in and out of jobs. She has signed up for an employment service and is given an assignment. What follows is a complete day literally marked by the hours. Miss Pettigrew knocks on the door of a glamorous singer, Delysia LaFosse, and is swept up into her world. There are men, friends, make-up and dress up, evening parties, and extended nights at a club. Miss Pettigrew gets to see how the other half lives and realizes that it’s not as terrible as she thought and that even a little moral corruption can be fun. No longer on the outside, Miss Pettigrew finds that she has a new demeanor in the presence of these new friends, she is more outspoken, she takes charge, she solves their problems sometimes unwittingly, and most of all she is likable. She succeeds in a way like she hasn’t before. For Miss Pettigrew this is liberating: “Now she, herself, had a destination. What a difference that made! All the difference in the world. Now she lived. She was inside of things. Now she took part. She breathed Ambrosial vapour.”

What I liked most about this story is that even as we see Miss Pettigrew become a stronger, happier person this is not without a bit of faltering and questionable decisions on her part. For example, Miss Pettigrew is stern in her recommendations to Miss LaFosse about her boyfriends’ behavior but in her mind she admits that she would do the exact opposite and “…have lain on the ground and let him walk all over me.”

I smiled, I laughed at the never ending antics. It became expected. Each time the adventures waned Miss Pettigrew would wait a few minutes sure that another adventure was approaching fast. At the end I’m thinking yay! Miss Pettigrew. Cinderella gets to go to the ball and possibly finds a happy ending and potentially a prince. She gets to enter a fantasy world and delightfully realizes that it is her new life.

Up next I’ll read Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey


5 responses to “Reads: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day-Winifred Watson

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