Miss Pettrigrew Lives for a Day

Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew

“Not everything comes along just when we want it. There are times when decisions just have to be made, or you certainly will miss out.” ~ Guinevere Pettigrew in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

“I am not an expert on love, I am an expert on the lack of love, Delysia, and that is a fate from which I wish most fervently to save you.” ~ Guinevere Pettigrew in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Every once in a while I want to watch a movie, or read a book that just makes me laugh out loud so I can carry that happy feeling for a long while afterwards. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is certainly that kind of story! But it’s so much more.

Sometimes story gems are discovered by film makers and the result is magic. If you haven’t seen the 2008 movie, which stars Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, you are missing out.

The book by Winifred Watson, has recently been republished by Persephone Classics and I’m so happy it’s in circulation. Persephone Classics has revived and republished several classics written by women. I’ll be looking for other titles from their shelves.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was first published in 1938. The movie is updated a bit with the addition of the beginning of WW II, some of the characters are combined, and events changed, but essentially it is the same story as the book. Much of the dialogue in the movie is exactly as Winifred Watson wrote it.

The story takes place in London. Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a down on her luck 40ish gentlewoman who has been working, rather unsuccessfully, as a governess for many years. In the movie, we see her get fired from her job by a pompous woman taking sips from a glass of sherry, presumably her daily habit. The butler hands Guinevere her suitcase and basically throws her out without the wages she is owed. At the employment agency she faces a stern woman who is unwilling to recommend her for a new position. She sneaks an employment request card for a social secretary position but must wait until morning to attempt to get the job. In the meantime, she collides with a man who is getting out of jail, her suitcase opens and all her belongings are thrown to the wind. She is so embarrassed she walks away with only the clothes she wearing. From that moment on, Guinevere and the audience barely have time to catch a breath. She spends an uncomfortable night in a train station with no money, or prospects, except for the card in her pocket.

In the morning, she beats a path to the gorgeous flat of Delysia Lafosse an actress and nightclub singer. When Delysia opens the door, Geuinevere is thrown into an unfamiliar world. Delysia asks for her help in getting rid of her overnight male companion because another man, the one who pays for the apartment, is on his way. Feeling out of her depth, Guinevere swallows her misgivings, and plunges in. Next she helps Delysia get rid of the second man as well. Later a third man, Michael, shows up who is, by coincidence, the man who collided with her the day before. In each evermore desperate situation, Guinevere sheds her modesty and high ideals. She rises to the occasion helping not only Delysia, but her friends iron out kinks in their personal lives for which Delysia is eternally grateful.

I could relate to Guinevere because there have been times when I felt like I was too straight laced and unwilling to accept people for who they are. Getting involved in theatre helped me become more accepting. For Guinevere, meeting Delysia, who is almost her total opposite, changes her in the happiest of ways. Guinevere decides that perhaps she has been too rigid and embraces the glamorous life that Delysia and her friends lead if only for a day. She may never get another chance to be on the inside of life, as she describes it in the book.

I can relate to that desire to throw caution to the wind, to embrace life. I’ve even had periods when I’ve done that like the time my husband and I sold our house and took a trip around the world. Those kinds of times are the ones I cherish most.

Interestingly enough, I can also relate to Delysia. She’s much more outgoing than I am, and appears to be scatter brained, but she is open hearted and even perceptive. She sees Guinevere as a person of value who deserves to be treated well. Valuing others is something I strive for in my own life.

As the story progresses, we find out why Delysia welcomes Guinevere into her life so readily. Near the end of the story she says, ”For all the fancy apartments and fashion shows, do you know how close I am to having nothing? Every day I wake up and I think, if I make the wrong move, I could be out on that street with no clothes, no food, no job and no friends.” That’s the moment that Guinevere and Delysia become friends for life. Two seemingly dissimilar women sharing common fears. They understand each other.

This is one of those delightful stories that has a serious theme. We all need to be appreciated and understood. Delysia and Guinevere give that to each other with the result that both get their happy endings.

I recommend both the book and the movie if for no other reason than they are good for a hearty belly laugh. Laughing is good for the digestion and helps you sleep better. And can’t we all use a good laugh from time to time? But I also recommend it because Guinevere is a good example for us all. She lets go of long held beliefs that have kept her from enjoying life. Once she does that, all kinds of new and wonderful possibilities open up for her.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments. Have a delightful weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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