I bought this book during my visit in Persephone Bookshop back in April (when everyone still thought this year summer in London will last only a week, like it did in previous years). I’ve read so much about it, that I intended to buy it since the beginning.
What a lovely book it is, a fairy tale for sure, but what a fun to read. Miss Pettigrew is desperate to find work as a governess and her agency sends her by mistake to the apartment of Delysia LaFosse. From there on ensues a series of misunderstandings, but from the get go Miss Pettigrew sides with lovely Delysia, amazed by her lifestyle but also her generosity. Together they spend a wonderful and glamorous day, Miss Pettigrew saving Delysia from trouble more than once. As you can see the story line is not overly complicated, but the execution is exquisite.
When I read about Miss Pettigrew I could feel only pity, I almost cried at one point when her old coat was mentioned and how she hasn’t had a decent meal for a while. One also has to sympathise with her honest assessment of her skills as a governess. But in stressful and complex situations there is no one better, Miss Pettigrew seems to have fantastic intuition for improvisation in difficult circumstances, when pushed she stops being shy and stands her ground (or rather Delysia’s and also let’s not forget the courage-giving power of a drink at the right time). Together with Delysia and her friends Miss Pettigrew enters the world of glamour, but also joyful shallowness, a world dead-set on enjoying life and the hell with consequences. And reading this book is the same, it is pure enjoyment, made me laugh more than once, and if it’s completely unbelievable – who cares!
Few quotes for the dessert:
‘Young man,’ said Miss Pettigrew, ‘if there’s one thing I completely abominate it’s the effeminate type of man that snoops around the house like an old, pecking busybody. I am Miss LaFosse’s guest. If she doesn’t mind, it’s no business of yours. If I want to smoke cheroots, I’ll smoke cheroots, instead of those damned, silly cigarettes. I’ve reached an age when I can please myself and I mean to please myself and to hell with your opinion. Have one, I can recommend them.’
‘How dare you?’ cried Miss LaFosse indignantly. ‘You know Nick’s father never sold ice-cream in his life. And your father sold fish.’
Michael jumped to his feet. He exploded into oratory. He strode up and down the room. Miss Pettigrew cast nervous eyes on chairs and ornaments.
‘You compare fish… with ice-cream,’ cried Michael. ‘Fish has phosphorus. Fish feeds the brain. Fish is nutritious. Fish is body-building. Fish has vitamins. Fish has cod-liver oil. Fish makes bonny babies bigger and better. Men give their lives for fish. Women weep. The harbour bar moans. You compare fish… with ice-cream. And look me in the face.’
Angela said nothing. She had once heard that too much talking, too much laughing, too much animation, aged one. Apart from the primary consideration that she never had anything to say, she meant to keep her looks.