Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day


This delightful book written by Winifred Watson made me laugh, giggle, and ignore people for large sections of time. It was originally published in 1938 and was a huge hit at the time, but was forgotten and went out of print for a while. Persephone Books attained the rights and republished it. Never heard of them? This is their “missions statement” so to speak:

Persephone prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget.

In 2008 the movie came out starring Amy Adams, Frances McDormand, Ciarin Hinds, and Lee Pace. It is a delightful movie, but it goes without saying that the book is infinitely better.

Cover of "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day ...

Movie cover via Amazon

I listened to this one. Frances McDormand, who plays Miss Pettigrew in the movie, reads it and it was simply delightful. She got some of her voices mixed up toward the end, but it wasn’t distracting.

My favorite parts were when Miss Pettigrew would talk to the men. Her dialogues with Nick, Michael, Tony, and Joe are precious. Joe’s is my favorite though. They get in a taxi together and by the end of the ride, he simply adores her. They have the most lovely and animated conversation about wool. Toward the end of the conversation she chastises him saying that he’s not a young man anymore and should be comfortable. It’s wonderful.

There isn’t as much conflict in the book as in the movie. Everyone loves Miss Pettigrew and everyone except Nick ends up happily-ever-after. Surprisingly, it doesn’t make the story cheesy.. The characters all have problems, and that’s made clear, but you love almost every character, even Nick has a charm all his own. The main conflict is with Miss Pettigrew herself. Everything that she’s seeing and experiencing was denied and prohibited as she grew up. Her conscience makes it difficult for her to enjoy herself.

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It was a whimsical dark chocolate book. The only other book that comes close is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

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