Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (1938)

Miss Pettigrew is a middle-aged spinster who has to earn her living as a governess. Her life is uneventful and dull, but everything changes when she is accidentally sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer. As soon as she enters Miss LaFosse’s life, Miss Pettigrew is thrilled, overjoyed, surprised and thankful, because Miss LaFosse is such an exciting and glamorous woman. The nightclub singer leads a sophisticated and bohemian life, with her many lovers and her dashing and daring friends. Miss LaFosse’s life is full of surprises, intricacies and troubles and that’s why Miss Pettigrew is so fascinated by the beautiful singer. At first, the governess is shocked to learn about Miss LaFosse’s chaotic and disreputable lifestyle, but the more time she spends with the singer, the more she grows fond of her. And since Miss LaFosse’s life is so unexpected and eclectic, Miss Pettigrew observes everything with great enthusiasm and admiration. But when a series of misunderstandings and stirring events occurs, Miss Pettigrew intervenes and immediately becomes a lifesaver for Miss LaFoss and her friends. In return, the governess is showered with kindness, acceptance and warmth and for the first time in her life, she is treated with respect and she is given the attention she’s always craved.

Miss Pettigrew’s story is remarkable and incredible in every way and it’s a lovely version of Cinderella. The likeable heroine never fails to surprise you, with her newly acquired repartee, her enthusiasm, her wit and her newly found self-confidence. Before she entered Miss LaFosse’s life, Miss Pettigrew never attracted anyone’s attention; she led a bleak life as a governess and nobody was interested in her. She had to live with other people and take care of their children and she never received any recognition for her work. The governess had no one to talk to and to confide in, as she had no friends. But everything changes when our heroine meets Miss LaFoss and her friends. Over a period of 24 hours, Miss Pettigrew’s life is completely altered. Suddenly, people begin to notice her, to listen to her and to ask for her advice. Miss Pettigrew finally feels appreciated and respected and she enjoys every minute of her new life. Our heroine also enjoys her new role as a lifesaver and she is happy that she can help out her new friends. Since she met Miss LaFoss, the governess has learned many things – she has learned to speak her mind, she has learned that she should never judge a book by its cover and she has learned to be daring. But the most important lesson she has learned from her day with Miss LaFosse is that it’s never too late to start living!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an irresistible book full of memorable and naughty characters, witty dialogue and wonderful adventures. This novel is humorous, charming and intelligent and I loved everything about it. I devoured every single page of this amazing book, but when I finished reading it, I felt sad and I began to miss all the characters. Miss Pettigrew and the other protagonists have become very dear to me and it was hard for me to part with them. When you love a book so much, you always long for more and you try to hold on to it for as long as you can. And this was the case with Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; everything was great about it and I cannot understand why it has taken me so long to discover this engaging novel. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it, because it’s now one of my favorite books.

I highly recommend this charming book to everyone out there who likes to read books set in the past and to everyone who likes to read books with a positive message and a feel-good vibe!

I would like to thank Lydia from Persephone Books for sending me a copy of this enchanting book!

“Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 83 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups.”

For more information, please visit Persephone Books.

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is the first in a popular series of four Mrs. Tim novels and it revolves around Hester Christie, who is married to Tim, a military man. Hester leads a busy and stressful life and she has to take care of many things as a military wife. Since her husband Tim is often away, Hester has her hands full with her children, Betty and Bryan and then, there are her social and domestic responsibilities that keep our heroine busy. Thus, when she learns that her family will soon have to move to a new regiment, Hester is not really pleased, as she knows that her life will become even more stressful. From the troubles of settling in to saving a dear friend from making a disastrous marriage, Hester has to deal with many new predicaments and dramas in Scotland. And when the wealthy Major Morley enters Hester’s life one day, our heroine finds out that life is often unexpected and that it takes you by surprise.

Written in diary form, Mrs. Tim of the Regiment gives the reader an account of Hester’s daily events and it displays the hectic and stressful life of a military wife in the 1930s. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is very charming and wonderful and I really enjoyed reading this book. Since I loved Miss Buncle’s Book, I was eager to read about Mrs. Tim and her adventures and I am so glad that D.E. Stevenson has again managed to write such an amusing novel. Some books that are written in diary form are often boring, as the various daily activities and the limited dialogue often slow the story down, but this is not the case here. The author narrates Mrs. Tim’s story in an exciting way, entertaining the reader with detailed descriptions, action and some witty dialogue.

I really liked Mrs. Tim of the Regiment because it was interesting to find out about the life of a military wife and to read about Mrs. Tim’s adventures, troubles and dilemmas. The characters in this book were amusing and delightful and it was a pleasure to read about them. Overall, I find that Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is an engaging and lovely novel written by a talented and wonderful author. I am looking forward to reading more works by D.E. Stevenson in the near future!

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea

Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni

When Jackie at Farm Lane Books mentioned Ruby’s Spoon, it immediately aroused my interest and I absolutely wanted to read this book. Therefore, I was very happy when Kristina Miller from Spiegel & Grau sent me a copy of this great book!  

Ruby’s Spoon is a suspenseful novel revolving around Cradle Cross, a small town in England in the 1930’s. The industrial town is dominated by a declining button factory that has a scary reputation. With its close-knit community, its old-fashioned villagers and their unwritten rules, Cradle Cross is a town where time seems to have stood still. So when a stranger named Isa Fly arrives into town in order to track down her half-sister, everyone is sceptical. From the start, she seems to attract people like a magnet. There’s just something mysterious about Isa, and she seems to cast a spell on everyone she meets. She seems to have bewitched Ruby, a thirteen-year-old girl who is immediately willing to help Isa find her half-sister. Ruby is drawn to Isa and she constantly feels the need to be around her. The young girl seems to long for Isa’s attention and her approval and she wants to help Isa at all cost. But Ruby hopes that she will get something in return – namely that Isa will take her to the sea, if they find Isa’s missing person. Although she senses that there is more to it than meets the eye when it comes to Isa’s arrival in Cradle Cross, Ruby still wants to help this secretive stranger, because she hopes to go away with her. Ruby wants to get away from Cradle Cross because she feels alone there. Her mother has died when she was younger and she has no real relationship with her father. Ruby lives with her grandmother Annie, who is too overprotective and who doesn’t show Ruby any affection. Annie has to deal with a lot of grief as she tries to fight the demons of her past, and she doesn’t really know how to handle Ruby. As a result, the young girl feels neglected and that’s why she feels drawn to Isa. The fascinating woman gives Ruby the attention she needs and takes her seriously. Thus, the curious girl is determined to ask the villagers many questions in order to assist Isa with her search. But the narrow-minded villagers don’t like the fact that Ruby wants to help a complete stranger and they think that Isa’s arrival in town has nothing to do with a missing relative. They think that Isa has to hide something and they begin to be very suspicious of her. The village residents begin to be afraid of Isa and they think that she’s responsible for the misfortunes that have happened lately in Cradle Cross. Moreover, they think that she’s a witch and therefore, the prejudiced villagers won’t leave Isa alone until they have found out why she has really come to Cradle Cross. When many rumours emerge and acts of violence occur, Ruby doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything and she bravely defends Isa against all those cruel accusations. However, what Ruby doesn’t know is the fact that she puts herself in great danger while trying to support Isa. How far will Ruby go to help her friend? And will she be able to unravel Isa’s dark secrets?  

Well, you’ll have to read this engaging book if you want to find out. All I can say is that Ruby’s spoon is the key to everything.  

With Ruby’s Spoon, Anna Lawrence Pietroni has created a fascinating fairy tale with a dark and mystic atmosphere. Cradle Cross is a place where people still believe in witches and mermaids; it’s a town where people hold on to their talismans for protection and perform rituals in order to deal with their grief. The residents of Cradle Cross are hostile to outsiders and they easily find a black sheep when something goes wrong. So when Isa arrives in town, they see that she is different, that she does not belong there, and hence, she is held responsible for all the mishaps. Moreover, they don’t like the fact that she can easily attract so many people with her unique charm. Therefore, they spread rumours about her and even act violently just to take revenge.  

I really found it interesting to read about Cradle Cross and its residents. It made me think about such places and I am sure that even in today’s society, there are still small towns out there, where people are prejudiced and hostile to outsiders.  

Ruby’s Spoon is a magical tale about loss, prejudice, abandonment, revenge and dark family secrets. The novel’s characters are very appealing and the plot is very captivating. As soon as you start reading this book, you will be eager to find out what happens to the protagonists. I really liked this novel and I highly recommend it to everyone out there! 

Miss Buncle’s Book

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson

When Vivienne at Serendipity mentioned Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson, I just knew that I had to read it! She always finds such interesting books and I just have to add them to my reading list. I am so glad that I discovered Miss Buncle’s Book because I loved it!

Miss Buncle’s Book has a simple story line, yet it’s just brilliant and engaging: Barbara Buncle is unmarried, in her late 30s and lives in a small village called Silverstream. Since she has to face financial struggles, she needs to think of a way to supplement her small income. She even thinks about raising hens, but she doesn’t “care for hens much” and she doesn’t “like touching them”, since “they are such fluttery things”. Therefore, she decides to write a book about Silverstream and its inhabitants.

In her novel, Barbara Buncle describes everything that happens in her little town and depicts the residents exactly as they are. She only changes the name of the village and the names of the inhabitants. Her book is simple, yet funny and well – written, hence it is immediately accepted by Mr. Abbott from Abbott & Spicer Publishers. Mr. Abbott is fascinated by Miss Buncle’s book and hopes that it will be successful. He is also intrigued by Miss Buncle, since she is different from any other woman he has ever met.

Barbara Buncle is an unlikely heroine: she is simple, unfashionable and is ignored by everyone in her village. She is an inconspicuous woman; therefore, she knows Silverstream’s deepest secrets since no one ever seems to notice her and since she is a very good observer. Barbara’s book contains events that have happened in her village and the novel is full of truthful depictions of Silverstream’s residents.

Thus, when the book becomes a best-seller, the residents are outraged because they realize that the book is about them. Since they are pictured with such clarity, the inhabitants feel certain that the author must also live in Silverstream and they are therefore determined to find the “evildoer” and punish him (they are sure that the author is male). The inhabitants arrange meetings in order to find out who wrote the incriminating book, but Barbara Buncle can rest assured, since no one would ever suspect her. Nonetheless, Miss Buncle cannot fully enjoy her success; she may have money now, but she cannot show it, otherwise people might find out about her little secret.

Will Barbara be able to keep her secret safe? And what will happen to her if people find out? Well, you’ll have to read this charming book if you want to know! I recommend this lovely novel to everyone out there, as this is an entertaining book that will make you laugh and forget about everything around you. Miss Buncle’s Book is absorbing and well – written; furthermore, it has a charming and pleasant main character and you will enjoy reading about Miss Buncle’s escapades in Silverstream.

The author draws a fascinating portrait of Silverstream and its residents, giving us a remarkable glimpse into a vanished and exciting world. Miss Buncle’s Book was published in 1934 and was very successful. Between 1923 and 1970, four million copies of D. E. Stevenson’s books were sold in Britain and three million in the States. Most of her books are now out of print, but “American websites eagerly circulate news of any new editions”. Readers seem to rediscover her books as they are attracted by Stevenson’s absorbing stories and I can fully understand why!

I would like to thank Lydia from Persephone Books for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

“Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 83 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups.”

For more information, please visit Persephone Books.