Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Book Review

Author: Winifred Watson
Persephone Books
I have such mixed feelings about this book. Written in 1938 (republished in 2000, complete with original drawings), it follows an extraordinary day in the life of the otherwise drab Miss Pettigrew. She is desperate for work when she mistakenly shows up looking for a governess position at the flat of Miss La Fosse, a singer/actress. Miss Pettigrew gets caught up in a whirlwind of activity far outside her experience, and at each conflict that arises for Miss LaFosse and her friend, Miss Dubarry, Miss Pettigrew saves the day in spite of (or maybe because of) her lack of experience in social affairs.

It is difficult for me to disengage from my feminist self and read a book like this in its historical context -- a story where women use all their cunning and play games to win a man. There's also a fair amount of racism in the novel that made me uncomfortable. It's not as though there were no redeeming qualities to the book - but so much was based on appearance and clothing and money and getting the man and putting up with behavior from men that is inappropriate and women fawning and fainting over men. I'm just not tolerant of that so much!

It is a charmingly written Cinderella tale with a lot of action and a bit of suspense. (3/5)


BooksPlease said...

This book is in my pile of tbr books. You make some interesting points - I'm wondering how the racism comes into it. I don't think I'm going to like the "women fawning and fainting over men", either!

Mmm - perhaps I'll read that next and see if I feel the same.