I'm excited to share this book recommendation from Christine Connor.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
– A Hidden Gem
Most true book lovers have so many books that, after a time, one wonders if their breeding behind your back. You decide that it’s best not to ever move house ever again because of the tremendous amount you’d have to spend on truck rental
and you start to keep books in places no ordinary person would: kitchen cupboards, the garden shed or maybe even in your pillow cases. Anywhere that spreads out the tidal wave of paperbacks and makes your book habit look more like a vague interest than an all-consuming obsession.
Although all of these books probably mean something to you there’s bound to be one that means more than all the rest. One that you will read time and again and each time it will make you laugh or cry or both just as it did the first time. That book, for me, is Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a little-known gem of woman’s fiction written by Watson right before the war in 1938. When Watson originally wrote the work it was rejected and she had to barter with her agent just to get it published. Considering the intricate beauty of this work this is quite astounding. Once it was published, however, it did become a success and it was so well-loved that producers began planning a musical film version of the book. Unfortunately just as the film was about to go into production Pearl Harbour happened and the book and the film became buried as people focused on more important day-to-day concerns. For years it remained all but forgotten before, recently, being republished by Persephone Books who specialise in women’s fiction. Since then a film version has been made starring Frances McDormand in the leading role, originally, back during the war, it was supposed to be Billy Burke. Sadly we’ll never know how that version turned out. The 2008 film did its best to live up to the fun of the book but, like so many book to film translations failed to capture its spirit. The problem with turning Miss Pettigrew into a film is that it’s a very pacy book in a lot of respects and has you wanting to read the next chapter even though you’ll be late for work. Again. It’s quite difficult to recreate this on film.
Like all the best stories Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a simple tale about a very poor nanny who accidentally goes to the wrong address when she’s given a job by an agency. Little does she know as she knocks on fortune’s door that a wonderfully exciting world waits behind it. Over the course of the book Miss Pettigrew, who is at the beginning insular and unsure, gradually grows in confidence through a serious of hilariously uncomfortable social situations and makes a big difference to the lives of the people she has happened upon. These people immediately accept her into their circle which is something Miss Pettigrew, being a poor nanny, is not used to at all and over the course of the book she finds new life-long friends.
Reasons to love it
When I picked up this book for the first time I wasn’t at all expecting the glorious journey it took me on. A friend had found it by accident at the library and had then begged me to buy it and read it for myself. It’s absolutely the best book purchase I have ever made. Not only is the story sweet, the characters genuine and well-rounded and the conclusion well thought out but the writing is actually very, very good. It’s delicately phrased without being too flowery and its witty, dry tone is guaranteed to have you smiling with every page you turn, I know that’s what happened for me.
Perhaps the biggest reason to love this book, however, is Miss Petigrew herself. The character of the retiring nanny isn’t necessarily something we can all identify with but her persona is. She is constantly unsure, constantly hoping for the best but expecting the worst and in a way this reflects how a lot of us feel about our lives for a lot of the time. We’re always hoping that there’s a happy ending somewhere around the corner but never quite dare to believe it until it really happens for us. I won’t give away the ending but I do promise that, if you see this book through to its conclusion, you won’t be disappointed.