I finally have the determination to pick this book up from the library! So many chances I had missed it! So this is my first read published by Persephone Books. It mainly introduces forgotten books from the twentieth century most by women writers, which are “neither too literary nor too commercial”, but are “guaranteed to be readable”. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day sets in London, recounting an unmistakably folly of an underprivileged woman named Miss Pettigrew, who is a spinster in her forties, living in straitened circumstances and without money to pay the rent. One day she’s been referred with an address and knocks on the door of Miss LaFosse’s for a post of governess. Here she delightfully leaves her mediocre and humdrum life, puts on thrills (to disperse cants) and nervousness (when situations flout her religious values inculcated by her family) to be a middle-aged Cinderella, deluged with unpredictable and unforgettable events starting from 9:15 a.m to 3:47 a.m the next day.
All characters are likable, I especially like the commercial secrets about cosmetics, perfumes and surgeries divulged by Miss Dubarry to Pettigrew, which emphasizes the trusted friendships between women, as it appears to be a rarity those days amidst gossips and matchmaking. It flits from talking about love, choosing a hubby, to plights of being a governess, which Pettigrew states that its duties amounts to a nursemaid’s work, who is only a hireling in none of the ways being treated as an individual, and considered dumbfounded at all times.
“I am a very poor governess. I am a very bad governess. I hate it. I loathe it. It’s been a deadly weight all my life. I can’t manage children. I grow more afraid of them every year. Each post was worse than the last. Every one was cheaper…”
It is a fun read with beautiful cover and illustrations. I haven’t watched the movie yet; it appears lovely too!
- The old dame had guts: smoking cheroots and bending her elbow with the best. (p.38)
- “…Odd!” said Miss Pettigrew conversationally, “the undermining effect of flowers on a woman’s common sense.” (p. 57)
- All these years and she had never had the wicked thrill of powdering her nose. Others had experienced that joy. Never she. And all because she lacked courage. All because she had never thought for herself. Power, thundered her father the curate, the road to damnation. Lip-stick, whispered her mother, the first step on the downward path. Rouge, fulminated her father, the harlot’s enticement. Eyebrow pencil, breathed her mother, no lady…! (p.73)
- “The culmination of all true romance,” said Miss Pettigrew sternly, “is marriage. Unless the thought of marriage enters both partners’ heads, you may be sure there will be no permanent happiness.” (p. 132)
- “Tears in the eyes,” said Michael, “curls delightfully disarranged, frock just a little to low, mouth pathetically quivering, expression childishly appealing, will have no effect.” (p.150)
- “Woman, ” he cried in delight, “your acumen is marvelous. I could only think of him singing mushy songs to mushy senoritas in mushy films.” (p. 155)
- Flirting was a charming game. Men know you expected them to flatter you and gratified your wish, but they expected you also to greet their remarks in like spirit. It was only her stupid inexperience which had made her take everything seriously. (p. 215)