Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson Book Review

Whenever possible, I always try to read the book before I see its movie adaptation. In the case of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I was unaware that it was a book until I saw Ms. Watson’s novel mentioned in the credits. I found the movie to be delightful, and added the book to my list on Goodreads. When it came time again for my book club to nominate books for the next reading cycle, I fit Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day in our “Books to Movie” category and was thrilled when it received the most votes.

Having watched the 2008 film several times before finally reading the book, I find it hard not to compare the book to the film. In very rare circumstances, I actually prefer the movie to the book, and that’s how it is with Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. There isn’t anything in particular that I disliked about the book; I just thought the film did a much better job of making me care about the characters than the book did. I also much preferred the ending of the film to the book. In both mediums, Miss Pettigrew gets a happy ending.

Written in 1938, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a light-hearted, fluffy novel about a dowdy governess who gets to pretend as if she is one of the elite for a day. Taken under the wing of Miss Delysia LaFosse, Miss Pettigrew is given fine clothes to wear and is invited to attend a lavish party. It was Miss Pettigrew’s understanding that she would be a caretaker of a child at Delysia’s home, but Miss Pettigrew becomes so swept up in the drama and glamour of Delysia’s life that she never gets to correct the mistake. At first, Miss Pettigrew is rather judgemental of Delysia. Juggling three different men, Delysia is not being true to herself or very lady-like. Although Miss Pettigrew has no prior experience in matters of love, she manages to help Delysia make sense of her love life, as well as patch up an engagement between Delysia’s friend Edythe and her beau. And though Miss Pettigrew had thought romance would never find her, a handsome older gentleman has eyes only for her.

I am so glad someone thought so highly of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and saw its big screen potential. The book unfortunately did not have the same sparkle or depth for me as did the movie; I even liked some of the darker elements of the film, such as mentions of the war. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of my book club thinks–will they like the book or the movie more?


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