Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson

Persephone Challenge, first book, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.




I’ll start out by saying that it is just a delightful book. It’s like a bubbling brook as it runs along, or a child skipping along, a little hop, skip and a jump. That is what the dialogue reminds me of. It flows so very freely. A bubbly, bouncy, burlesque kind of story, in the genre of the old time music hall.

Miss Pettigrew a very tired greyed out middle aged spinster , who is a nanny, seeks a job, in a very greyed out period of 20Th century history, at least for some. But not if you have money. There are two types of money, that of the rather boring suburbia families, living still within the rules of Victorian morality and then there is the entrepreneurial nouveau rich. Who have cast off restraints of society themselves, and don’t hold others to such high standards either. Who accept you for what you are and do not judge you by your pedigree background.

Into this is cast Miss Pettergrew desperate for a position, never given a leading role to shine is sent by her employment agency to the apartment of a night club singer, Miss LaFosse, here it all begins. We enter into the comings and goings of gentlemen folk at Miss LaFosses’s apartment.

This early paragraph sums up our entrance into the story.

“…She knew she was not a person to be relied upon. But perhaps that was because hitherto every one had perpetually taken her inadequacy for granted. How do we know what latent possibilities of achievement we possess? …”

Miss Pettigrew’s thoughts on one gentlemen, Phil.

“… I do,’ she apostrophized her shocked other self determinedly, ‘I don’t care, I do. He’s not quite … quite delicate. But he’s nice. He doesn’t care whether I’m shabby and poor. I’ m a lady, so he’s polite in his way to me.’

The relationship between Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew grows. Who would be right for Miss LaFosse to marry? Can Miss Pettigrew stave off the wolf?

Her thought about Nick.

“His glance flicked over her and Miss Pettigrew became aware at once of her age, her dowdy clothes, her clumsy figure, her wispy hair, her sallow complexion. she flushed a painful red. Her mind disliked him at once: her emotions were enslaved.”

As the day goes on.

“… But these people! They opened their hearts. they admitted her. she was one of themselves. It was the amazing way they took her for granted that thrilled every nerve in her body. No surprise: they simply said ‘Hello’, and you were one of themselves. No worrying what your position and your family and your bank balance were. In all her lonely life Miss Pettigrew had never realized how lonely she had been until now, when for one day she was lonely no longer…”

With the acceptance of Miss Pettigrew and her witty dialogue come a new wardrobe.

“… She had never worn real silk underclothes in her life. at once they made her feel different. She felt wicked daring, ready for anything. She left her hesitations behind with her home-made woollens.”

I will intersperse here some personal thoughts. A dear friend of mine whose mother never had access to an education, told me that her mother never left home without dressing to the nines. She would say to M. I feel more confident and people sum you up, by first appearances, how you dress.

I personally had that experience some weeks ago. Feeling somewhat down and not bothering to dress even somewhat better, I went into a store, where I’ve shopped often and never been asked for ID to accompany my credit card, but on this day I was. My whole persona came across as down and the shop assistant thought of me accordingly.

I love this sentence.

“She breathed Ambrosial vapour.”

Is a romance in the offing for Miss Pettigrew?

Well read the book. You will not be disappointed.

Christy

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