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Vintage Book Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day (1938) – A Charming and Hilarious Cinderella Story

miss-pettigrew-coverWhilst traveling on the coast of Maine this past summer, I came across an adorable gift/bookshop called Beyond the Sea. I don’t know about everyone else, but one of my much-loved vacation activities is discovering unique bookstores with antique books inside. Beyond the Sea offered just that (I even went away with an old edition of Precious Bane), but the charming shop also offered me something more: an introduction into the fabulous world of Persephone Books.

Sitting on a large table and arranged rather provocatively I might add, were myriads of different novels with the same grey color. Asking for more information, I was soon informed about Persephone Books, forgotten or out of print books republished for modern consumption. They were typically (so not always) written by women as well (Read more about it HERE). Apparently, it’s a big thing over in England, but not nearly as heard of here in America. I decided immediately I wanted to help spread the word. But which book was I to read first?

While scrolling through the sea of grey, I recognized a title: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I’d seen the movie, loved it, and knew now that it was only a matter of time before I turned to the book. I mean, I had no idea about Persephone Books when I watched the film. Eventually, I reluctantly left the shop with a different book and matching endpaper bookmark in hand (another review that will surely be coming soon), but I couldn’t get Miss Pettigrew out of my head. I even watched the movie again. After that, there was no turning back.miss pettigrew grey cover

I downloaded the book onto my Kindle and began reading about the world of Miss Pettigrew. Written in 1938 right before the outbreak of WWII, the story follows a poor older governess (and not very good one) sent by an employment agency to the wrong address (which for Miss Pettigrew really becomes almost a case of mistaken identities, considering she keeps expecting a child to pop out of the blue).

At the address, she meets Miss La Fosse and somehow gets thrown into her glamorous world for an entire day. Used to the prim and proper world of a governess, Miss Pettigrew is quite shocked by all the scandalous behavior of this nightclub singer but finds it all rather exciting after all. Soon she becomes a trusted confidante as she saves Miss La Fosse from several too close scenarios (the cigar incident a hilarious moment that had me laugh out loud).

Aside from saving Miss La Fosse from her numerous affairs, this novel is really about saving Miss Pettigrew in a Cinderella kind of way that tells the readers (written during bleak times) that optimism and happiness can be discovered in the most unlikely of places and times.

Miss Pettigrew Film Adaptation (2008) Photo: Focus Features
Miss Pettigrew Film Adaptation (2008)
Photo: Focus Features

For those fans of the movie (and if you haven’t seen it, you should), there are several notable changes: romance being one of the biggest. As a Cinderella story, there has to be a sort of Prince for Miss Pettigrew and in the film this came in the form of a dashingly romantic man named Joe. While reading the book, I was surprised to find that the character of Joe, however, was combined from two different characters in the original story. While I enjoyed the love story in the book, I do have to confess that I actually appreciate the changes made for the movie as it made the romance even stronger (Joe not making an appearance until like 70 percent through the book). Still, the love story, when presented is both funny and sweet, which makes for quite a delightful read.

Overall, if you love books with wit (the writing can be really, really funny), romance, happy endings, and a good bit of characterization, then Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day should be at the top of your list. The same can definitely be said for your foray into the addictive world of Persephone Books. They have several lesser known titles just waiting for you to discover.

Overall Rating

Five Star Rating border

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Romance Rating

four heart border

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Book Info:

Page Count: 223

Publisher: Persephone Books

Genre: Classic Literature, Humor, Social Comedy, Romance

Buy Here: Amazon OR Persephone Books

About the Author: http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/winifred-watson/

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By on August 14th, 2015

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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