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Miss. Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson – A Modern Fairy tale for Guaranteed Chuckles

16th May, 2017

Book Review : Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson

A forty year old lady who struggles to make ends meet has an extraordinary day in the world of glitz and glam.


Set in London in the 1930s, Watson’s book captures a day in the life of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew. As the novel opens, Miss Pettigrew is in urgent need of a new job as a governess or a nanny, both of which she is not very good at. If she doesn’t secure a new position that day, she might be turned out of her house by the landlady. In a mix-up over the details at the employment agency, she ends up in the home of Miss Delysia LaFosse, a glamorous nightclub singer in need of a new maid. So Miss. Pettigrew walks in thinking she is employed as a nanny while Miss. LaFosse is delighted with her new maid who seems to fix everything unruly in her life.

I loved the character sketches in the book. Miss. Pettigrew is a forty year old, uninteresting, clumsy lady desperately in need of money. She is uptight about her morals and might seem as one who would be appalled by a lifestyle as that of Delysia. Miss. LaFosse is flighty, flirtatious,  has three beaus, one for the money, one for launching her career and one for love, and has no qualms about spending her money (kindly provided by one of her men of course). Miss. Pettigrew seems to magically help Miss. LaFosse out of all her problems, be it dealing with her men or her insecurities, and in turn Miss. LaFosse is thrilled and showers her with appreciation, something Miss. Pettigrew has never experienced in her life. The women change each other over the course of the day and form a strong friendship that they would not have forged had they not met under the same circumstances. The book has wonderful side characters such as the scheming (unfaithful?) girlfriend, the rich businessman and so on which leave you with not one dull moment.

Book Review : Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson

Miss. Pettigrew Lives for a Day is such a delightful and hilarious read. It is like a contemporary take on the Cinderella story, an adult fairy tale. Remember all those warm, fuzzy feelings you get when the soot smudged Cinderella has a wonderful night at the ball, thanks to her fairy Godmother? That is what this book will give you in a platter.  The book is intended as a light read with humour and should be read with the same mind set. Which means, the funny passages about how Miss. Pettigrew gets in a conversation about establishing a business by being a gold-digger or Miss. LaFosse’s love life (juggling three men at a time), should be read for the laughs and not for brooding over what message the book gives. The novel is immensely funny and had me roaring with laughter and ended with me trying desperately to get a copy of the movie adaptation of the book. The movie was disappointing compared to the book. So I would whole heartedly recommend reading than watching about  Miss. Pettigrew’s day.

I end the review with this passage from the book. If you love this one, chances are you will find your next enjoyable read in Winifred Watson’s story.

No longer were the damp November streets dreary. Fairy signs glittered on buildings. Magic horns hooted insistently. Palace lights shed a brilliant glow on the pavements. Avalon hummed, throbbed, pulsed, quivered with life. Bowler-hatted knights and luscious ladies hastened with happy faces for delightful destinations. Miss Pettigrew hastened with them, though much more aristocratically than on her own two legs. Now she, herself, had a destination. What a difference that made! All the difference in the world. Now she lived. Now she was inside of things. Now she took part. She breathed Ambrosial vapour. 

Final Verdict :

The book was a wonderful read, full of light moments, the one that makes you feel like a happy reader when you close the book. This would be a perfect weekend read to relax with.

Title : Miss. Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Author : Winifred Watson
Publisher : Persephone Books
Published : 2008 (Originally 1938)
Language : English
Pages : 234
Rating : 4.5/5

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
This Post Has 29 Comments
  1. Lovely review, and I do love the photos you always use in your posts! This is a glorious book, isn’t it? Pure escapism, pure fantasy but what a feel-good read. I smiled from beginning to end when I read it!

    1. Thank you Karen. You are too kind. Miss. Pettigrew was so so wonderful. I totally get what you mean. I was laughing and grinning through all the pages. I really enjoyed the book. I was a bit disappointed with the movie though. Everything seemed so much more funnier in the book.

  2. I picked this book almost two years ago at Persephone because I had seen the movie with Amy Adams and Lee Pace and I wanted to read the book. I haven’t but I’m gonna try and read it during summer. Your review made me so excited about it 🙂

  3. Great review! I read this a few years ago and you’ve reminded me of what fun it was – a book to make the reader smile. I haven’t seen the movie, though – not sure it appeals since it wasn’t the story that was so much fun for me, more the writing and characterisation, if you know what I mean…

  4. Loved hearing this on the radio but I missed the last 30 minutes so its good to know the book is brilliant all the way through. Will put it on the ‘a little light entertainment’ list! And books are often funnier…I’d like to think its talents of the reader that gives them that edge =p

  5. This sounds like a fun read. Sometimes one needs a break from the serious stuff and a foray into a lighter book is refreshing. With that, I usually find something that involves details or analysis to dig into even when it comes to books such as this 🙂

  6. Like you, I loved the characterisation in this novel. So glad you enjoyed it too. It’s such an uplifting read, isn’t it? Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

    Just following up on our conversation about racism in Decline and Fall, there are a couple of unfortunate racial slurs here too. It’s a pity as they just take a little bit of the shine off this truly lovely book.

  7. I haven’t read this one yet, but that cover keeps catching my eye. Thanks for including an excerpt at the end. I do like the writing style and based on your description, I think this does sound like a perfect weekend or vacation read. Great review!

  8. I love that one-line summary!! You are SO amazing to be able to do that. #goals And also this sounds like a really nice book! I totally adore the artwork of the cover too .. and the name Guinevere Pettigrew is just so so epically classic. LOVE IT.

    1. Thanks Cait. Even I think it is a pretty catchy name. I am glad you like the one line summaries. Makes it easier for visitors to decide whether the book is their kind of a book

  9. A breezy and beautiful review, Resh Susan! I saw the film, but I am sad to say I didn’t realize it was a book. I’ll certainly have to check it out. I really enjoyed the relationship between Miss Pettigrew and MissLaFosse in the film. I’m almost certain the character development will be even better in the book. It always always is. 😉 Have you seen the film?

  10. This sounds absolutely amazing 🙂 and I know I’ve heard it – now I see I’ve added as to-read on Goodreads! (It’s really no wonder I wouldn’t remember every item on a 750 book list, haha)
    I am going to see where I could grab it though, cause it seems like something I could use right about now. Lovely review!

  11. This novel always has wonderful reviews and gorgeous covers. I watched the film years ago because I’m a huge fan of Amy Adams and I have to say that I didn’t care much for it. But I’m glad to read yet another great review!

  12. I’ve actually never heard of this one (nor its movie) before but I’m quite drawn by the artsy cover as well as the premise. I like that you compared this to an adult fairy tale though. I may check it out the next time I’m at the bookstore if it’s that good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.


  13. I adored this book – like many, it was my first Persephone, and it got me hooked. I need to re-read it, actually. Paul Gallico’s “Mrs ‘Arris goes to Paris” is a similar fairy tale.

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