Sunday 24 July 2011

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

I've wanted to read this Cinderella story since discovering it through 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.  Set in 1930s London, stuffy, prudish, moralistic governess Miss Pettigrew is sent to the wrong house for a job application and ends up swept up in the decadent world of Miss LaFosse, a nightclub singer who drinks and has several lovers on the go.  Over the course of the novel, Miss Pettigrew learns to enjoy life and become less sensible, whilst Miss LaFosse learns to become more settled.

This was a cosy, charming read.  It's my first experience of a Persephone book and I was very impressed with the publishing quality - smooth paper, gorgeous cover and delightful little illustrations set throughout.  It was also the perfect size and weight for comfortable reading.  I can see why people collect Persephone editions!

The two female leads were fully formed characters that jumped off the page, and I liked that their friendship was the main focus of the book, rather than their romantic entanglements.  However, the secondary characters (especially Miss LaFosse's lovers) seemed to blur into one for me, and I found it hard to keep track of them as there was not much interesting or distinct about them.  I was more attached to the way Watson wrote 1930s London than the way she wrote some of her characters.

I did enjoy the format of the book - each chapter was another chunk of time from the day and I liked that the whole book was only one day.  I know a film has been made of this book (although I've not seen it), and I can see why as the structure of it does lend itself easily to film.

But unfortunately I didn't love this book as I had hoped to.  Maybe it's because I've heard a lot of hype about it and my expectations were too high, but it was easy for me to put this book down and I didn't always want to return to it.  I can't quite put my finger on why.

Verdict: A charming, cosy, Sunday afternoon read.
Source: Library
Score: 3.5 out of 5


  1. I absolutely must read this at some point, it sounds like a cute little read. Thanks for your honest review though - I have quite high expectations of this one but I will take them down a notch now so as not to be disappointed.

  2. Willa, I think it's good not to have too high expectations, because I think that was the problem for me. It is a cute read though, hope you enjoy it :)

  3. I have watched the movie adaptation of this, and really enjoyed it. I wanted to read the book too. I am sorry that you didn't enjoy the book as much as you had hoped too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it!

  4. Misha, I do want to see the film because as I was reading it, I could see that it would make a great film.

  5. It was a very charming movie. Miss Pettigrew was funny and wonderful and Amy Adams as Miss LaFosse was so endearing.

  6. Not read the book, but I really loved the movie.