Rachel M's Reviews > Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
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Jan 04, 2011

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"'Such a day!'" said Miss LaFosse. 'Everything went wrong and everything went right. But I daren't think what would have happened if you hadn't come.'"

Three stars because this book is like treating yourself with a cappucino. It is all froth and adventure...

...but there is a part of me that is wondering whether to agree with all of it. Miss Pettigrew has spent her life as a nursery governess, shut in, supposedly by the principles of virtue. Then one day, as she ventures out to seek a new post with Delysia LaFosse, her new potential employer brings her into the "life of sin," which Miss Pettigrew gradually comes to prefer to her spinsterly, good prior existence, because she finds herself actually living for once.

So Miss Pettigrew goes out and has a good time and does all of the things she would ordinarily call sinful - and she loves it! She drinks one too many drinks, even lets a man buy her expensive jewelry, and stays out past five in the morning. But she finds that she is actually letting things happen to her, and isn't so cautious or afraid of life.

I am hesitant because I think books like this paint virtue as prudishness, subtly opining that the virtuous life can't allow for fun or real living. But in another sense, the character of Miss Pettigrew grows to cast off her understanding of virtue as a life lived in fear, and comes to apply real virtue to the situations which she encounters- in her day with Delysia LaFosse, she does fearlessly what she never would have done before, but she sees more clearly why the right is right and the wrong is wrong. The other characters, which she might have dismissed before because of outward signs of "badness," she is able to recognize for their kindness or honesty - and the really bad characters, she tells off and puts in their place.

So the novel sees Miss Pettigrew finding that the Delysia LaFosse characters need her practical and strong leadership - and she in turn learns to live without fear.
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