Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" by Winifred Watson

Winifred Watson had never been to a nightclub in her life. Yet, from her pen came the 1938 Cinderella story of a dowdy British governess who by chance appointment discovers the glamorous dazzling nightlife of London, and in the process, herself. Accustomed to reading Watson’s provincial historical romances, Watson’s fans were surprised when she spun a tale of cocktails, cocaine, and jazz singers.

Miss Pettigrew is a woman who is on her last stretch, one step away from financial and emotional bankruptcy. Her final hope is an appointment with a Miss LaFosse, a beauty and jazz singer in negligee. Miss LaFosse instantly recruits Miss Pettigrew to help manage the string of lovers that weave in and out of her boudoir: Phil, Nick (a devilish Lothario who enslaves Miss LaFosse’s affections), and Michael (an intemperate man wishing to marry the beautiful singer). Due to Miss LaFosse’s quick affection and confidence in Miss Pettigrew’s talents, Miss Pettigrew finds herself able to see herself as more than a lonely woman past her prime, and exchange her poor self-esteem and maiden-aunt moralizations for a sudden ring of friends, affirmation, and even love.

Any review I write will inevitably spoil the freshness of this book. The development of Miss Pettigrew’s self-confidence over a single day is charming and inspiring. I only wish I could hug Guinevere Pettigrew, and doubt that the 2008 movie adaptation will stand up to the endearing characterizations Watson sketches.

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