Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

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.

3 thoughts on “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

  1. I haven’t read the book and my general opinion is that the book is always better. But I did really like the movie. I think Frances McDormand and Amy Adams are both fantastic actresses and beautifully suited to the parts. I don’t remember thinking it was all farce, although there is a bit of slapstick. Amy Adams plays the American actress as very much an innocent who is sexually attractive to men but doesn’t really know what she is doing rather than as someone who is purposefully using sex to get her way. It’s also a movie where good values win in the end, even if it’s a bit neat and Hollywoodish of an ending.

  2. I didn’t love the movie (although Frances McDormand and Ciaran Hinds were top notch) and have often wondered if I would like the book. Thanks for the good review.

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