… to see for one day how life could be lived, so that for all the rest of her dull, eventful days, when things grew bad, she could look back in her mind and dwell on the time when for one perfect day she, Miss Pettigrew, lived.
I had read several positive reviews about Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day but had always been hesitant about paying £12 for what seemed like a fairy tale.
When I was in London recently, I wanted to visit Persephone Books to check out this novel amongst a few others. I was held back by work and didn’t make it to the shop before it closed. So I headed to Skoob Books, which is a few streets from Persephone Books. Lo and behold, I chanced upon a secondhand copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day at Skoob Books!
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a delightful tale set in 1930s London. The protagonist, Guinevere Pettigrew, is a strait-laced 40-year-old spinster sent by an employment agency to the apartment of Delysia LaFosse, a beautiful nightclub singer. The former is looking for a governess job and Miss LaFosse, a maid as well as love, marriage and fame.
Brought up by conservative parents, Miss Pettigrew had never wore any makeup, kissed a man or went to a nightclub. In this one serendipitous day, she does all these and more.
The result: a heartwarming comedy of events that had me grinning throughout. You can’t help but want to root for Miss Pettigrew, who is self-deprecating and especially charming because of her refreshing honesty, good heart and clear mind.
In one short day, at the first wink of temptation, she had not just fallen, but positively tumbled, from grace. Her long years of virtue counted for nothing. She had never been tempted before. The fleshpots called : the music bewitched : dens of iniquity charmed… She could not deny that this way of sin, condemned by parents and principles, was a great deal more pleasant than the lonely path of virtue.
This is the second novel that I’ve read from Persephone Books; the first being Fidelity by Susan Glaspell. I enjoyed both books tremendously but for different reasons. Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day makes for a lighthearted and entertaining read – perfect for a lazy afternoon or after a hard week’s work. I also like the illustrations by Mary Thomson that bring to life the (sometimes incredulous) scenarios that Miss Pettigrew finds herself in.
Persephone Books come in a uniform shade of grey, each featuring a distinct endpaper that has been chosen to match the mood and date of the book. In addition, each Persephone Book comes with a bookmark using the endpaper design.
In Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, the endpaper is taken from a 1938 furnishing fabric by Marion Dornwhich. This design, I think, is also reflected in the corsage that Miss Pettigrew wears in the illustration above.