Sunday, April 18, 2010

BookLook Review "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"

I love this movie; I mean this book, by Winifred Watson.

It is because of the wonderful movie that I bought the book. Although they are of course slightly different, the 2008 movie does make a valiant attempt to keep true to a book written in 1938. And thanks to the movie, Persephone Classics of the UK has a popular re-release here in America. The inclusion of the small original illustrations bring the characters from more than seventy years ago to life for the readers and make the slightly higher purchase price well worth it.

The virtuous Miss Pettigrew (picture Frances McDormand here) is a frumpy 40 year old out-of-work governess in 1930’s London. Her life has been devoid of affection, friendship and fun. She has never been in love and certainly never been kissed in all her sheltered years spent first as the child of a stern cleric and more recently behind the doors of the nurseries of unkind employers. I am thinking in a British accent right now so you may want to read it that way – it will all make a great deal more sense.

But one day…the employment agency mistakenly sends her as a maid, not a governess to the beautiful actress Miss Delysia La Fosse (picture Amy Adams here). A frantic series of humorous misunderstandings turns Miss Pettigrew into an instant friend to a crowd of “swinging” singles. Delysia and her friend the cosmetologist are at their wits end trying to balance their numerous lovers. Miss Pettigrew advises and revises as she offers her help in managing each crisis. She is brilliant! Why hadn’t they thought of that? She must come along for the evening and help them save their relationships! The girls dress Miss Pettigrew up like Cinderella and whisk her off to have a ball at a cocktail party, a dinner party and an evening at a nightclub.

As hour by hour Miss Pettigrew sheds her dowdy former self, she gains confidence that she may have a place and a purpose in this new and exciting society. Her Cinderella story only lasts one day for us, but we are left with the hope that she has found her prince and true love at last. It’s a classic old tale told in an unusual setting, which always makes a great book and a great movie.

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