This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned a Persephone Books title, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Again, they’ve chosen a perfect gem to resurrect. This cheery, comic tale, set in 1930s London, begins with shy Miss Pettigrew, ‘with a timid, defeated expression and terror quite discernible in her eyes, if anyone cared to look’, calling on the glamorous Miss LaFosse. She is hoping to gain employment as a governess, but becomes swept into a world of style, society and night clubs, becoming invaluable to her hostess.
Watson wittily adopts Miss Pettigrew’s perspective: ‘Shocked by such flighty thoughts Miss Pettigrew took her imagination severely in hand and forced it back to the practical.’ Her upbringing as a gentlewoman initially inhibits her enjoyment of Delysia LaFosse’s more louche existence: ‘Odd,’ said Miss Pettigrew conversationally, ‘the undermining effect of flowers on a woman’s common sense.’ The transformation of her character is simply lovely: she is physically transformed by Miss LaFosse and her friend’s application of make up, curls and a velvet gown. Her personal transformation happens concurrently. She shows herself to be intelligent, sharp and free-spirited, despite her jittery inner monologue. The little details, like the way she ensures where ever she sits she can glimpse her new self in the mirror, bring this tale to life.
This is just the sort of book that everyone should read at the start of a new year: it is optimistic, funny and has a heart-warming happy ending. It reminds me of P. G Wodehouse in style and humour. Also, the illustrations are lively and really give it splendid character.