Published in 1938, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a book about grace and joy. Miss Pettigrew, a poverty-sticken, middle-aged, rather incompetent governess accidentally finds herself in the apartment of a promiscuous night-club singer, Delysia LaFosse. Even though Miss Pettigrew knows she should tell Miss LaFosse the truth, that she is there under false pretenses, and even though she knows the folly of Miss LaFosse’s way of life with men in and out of the apartment as if it had a revolving door, Guinevere Pettigrew can’t tear herself away from the first adventure that has ever presented itself in her entire life.
I found this one oddly delightful. Miss Pettigrew begins as the stereotypical repressed spinster, but she turns out to be surprisingly full of wisdom and intuition and zest for life. She just needs the right soil in which to grow and bloom, and Delysia LaFosse and her friends provide that avenue for growth. Delysia and her set are rather shocking in their behavior, but one gets the idea that they are more naive than calculating. And Miss Pettigrew is able, with her clear-sighted advice and her knack for saying the right thing at the right time, to straighten them out and make sure that the right man wins the hand of the fair lady and that the lady takes her chance when it is offered.
I’m rather skeptical about the movie based on this book. I think it would take a deft hand to keep the story from becoming a sexually titillating farce, and I see very little indication in the reviews that it didn’t become just that when Hollywood got hold of it. If I’m right, the book is much better.