I always wanted to taste whiskey,’ said Miss Pettigrew happily. I’ve never had it, ever, even when I’ve had a cold, as medicine.’
‘Where were you brought up?’ commiserated Michael.
‘Sip it slowly,’ begged Miss LaFosse.
‘Bottoms up,’ said Michael.
Miss Pettigrew sipped. She pulled a face. She slipped her class surreptitiously on the table.
‘Ugh!’ thought Miss Pettigrew, disappointed. Not what it’s cracked up to be. Why men waste money getting drunk on that, when they can get a really cheap palatable drink like lemon squash …!’
Laughing and thinking about this passage from Winifred Watson’s memorable novel ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ (1938).
I am reviewing this book as part of the #1938club, initiated by Simon David Thomas of Stuck in a Book and Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. To take a look at other books published in the same year, reviewed by other bloggers, please take a look at this blogpost and this one.
This Persephone Classic, recounts the events of the most remarkable day in the life of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew. The day starts quite drearily with Miss Pettigrew desperately seeking a job to avoid being thrown out of her abode. Miss Pettigrew is mistakenly sent by the employment agency, to the apartment of young singer and aspiring actress Miss Delysia LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew thinks she is applying for the post of a governess and Delysia requires a maid to keep her affairs in order.
In the misunderstanding that ensues, Miss Pettigrew exhibits immense presence of mind and efficiency in helping Miss La Fosse out of several scrapes, most of which involve young men. Miss Pettigrew is called upon to save Delysia from several precarious situations. She lies for the first time in her life, is called upon to show some acting skills (something she had not known that she had within her!) and also drink and socialize with Delysia’s group of friends.
For the first time in her life Miss Pettigrew feels needed, loved and competent. She undergoes a metamorphosis so dramatic and sudden that by the end of the day she is hardly the same person who had timidly knocked upon Mis LaFosse’s front door. It is a day that changes Miss Pettigrew’s life and the lives of several people she touches, forever.
Charming and funny and tinged with the naïveté of Miss Pettigrew’s unimpeachable character, it is a story that is laced with the wistfulness and regret of missed chances and opportunities of forgotten youth. However, there is great hopefulness in the novel. Miss Pettigrew reminds me in little subtle ways of Anne in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and she has the matchmaking tendencies of Austen’s Emma, only she is far wiser and manages situations much better.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a charming novel. It is book that will invoke giggles. I will most certainly be reaching out for it in a couple of years for a re-read.