Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

 Usually, I will watch a movie because I’ve read or at least, heard of the book. Here, it’s the other way around. I came across the movie and then found out that it was a book. I went through a sort of a Lee Pace binge-fest and managed to get most of his filmography on DVD within two weeks. I’m also an Amy Adams fan. Not to mention both Amy and Lee sing in this… my knees buckled when I saw that clip:

(Now, your knees will buckle too!)

I’ve been a good girl and decided to read the book before watching the film. I did both within a day.

Miss Pettigrew, an approaching-middle-age governess, was accustomed to a household of unruly English children. When her employment agency sends her to the wrong address, her life takes an unexpected turn. The alluring nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse, becomes her new employer, and Miss Pettigrew encounters a kind of glamour that she had only met before at the movies. Over the course of a single day, both women are changed forever. — Goodreads.

The whole book does span just one day. As per the title, Miss Pettigrew lives a life so different from what she’s used to for 24 hours. Just when it seems that all hope is gone, Miss Pettigrew finds herself on the doorstep of Delysia LaFosse thinking that she was in search of a governess for her child. Turns out, the up and coming actress was looking for a maid to help her with the upkeep of her apartment. Not only is Miss Pettigrew thrust into a totally different job description, she was diving headfirst to something she’s never experienced before.

Set in the 1940s, this little book is filled with the glamour and whimsy of that era. Delysia LaFosse’s life is a total 180 from Miss Pettigrew’s. She’s a young (seemingly) independent woman of a certain status in society; a talented club singer with hopes of bigger things. But she is torn among 3 men – Phil, the son of a wealthy and influential man who can skyrocket Miss LaFosse’s career; Nick, the society big shot who owns the place where Delysia lives; and Michael, a poor pianist who has her marriage. Miss Pettigrew meets all three and right away forms her opinion of them. Immediately, she felt motherly affection towards her employer and sought the best for her.

And Miss LaFosse was equally enamored by Miss Pettigrew. She saw past Miss Pettigrew’s plain clothes and common appearance and dressed her up to the nines, treated her like royalty. It was something completely new to Miss Pettigrew and she lived every second of it. Of course, she never forgot her “job”, to see what’s best for Delysia. She used her newfound confidence and acceptance to wiggle her way through this alien society and make the most out of it. Not only does she find her new self, she also found a new love.

I really enjoyed the tone of the book. You can feel Miss Pettigrew’s initial hopelessness and apprehension but slowly, she comes to her own regardless of the new wardrobe and makeup put on her. It is sort of a coming-of-age but it’s a woman in her 40s in a span of one day. I found myself rooting for her and for Delysia. Usually, I’d find similar characters to be shallow and unlikable but I loved Delysia. I enjoyed watching her flounce from one man to another. Having Amy Adams in my head helped me like her more. I was also excited to see the romantic development between Miss Pettigrew and the character of Joe. To me, Miss Pettigrew is a representation of the reader in her own world, living a normal everyday life but wanting a little spice. Miss Pettigrew had that one day to live that new life and it opened doors for more days to come.

I also enjoyed the movie. I preferred the book ending but the casting definitely upped the experience. Lee Pace as Michael is just perfect. Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew was spot on. She was hilarious and embodied the Miss Pettigrew of the book so well. Ciaran Hinds as Joe was great as well. I’m used to seeing him in sinister roles but here, he’s a sweet man who was so gentle with Miss Pettigew. Shirley Henderson aka Harry Potter‘s Moaning Myrtle is also in this movie as one of Delysia’s society friends.

The trend of translating books to film is definitely not a new thing but it is experiencing some resurgence in the past years. Huge YA blockbusters are fine and fun but these quiet little gems in the rough are great as well.

Rating: 5/5. Watch the movie after you read this. Or just watch the movie for Lee Pace. 😉

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2 thoughts on “Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

  1. Pingback: #BOOKBLOGWRIMO – DAY TWENTY #TBT | Reading Good Books

  2. Pingback: TOP TEN TUESDAYS | WHERE ARE THEY NOW? | Reading Good Books

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