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

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

Six-year-old Joe is a curious little boy who asks many questions and who has a vivid imagination. Joe is living with his mother in 1950s East End London, where he is always surrounded by hard-working people. From his neighbour Mr. Kandinsky and the wrestler Shmule to the shop owner Mrs. Abramowitz, little Joe is accompanied by people who are very fond of him and who take good care of him.

As all of Joe’s acquaintances seem to need a little bit of luck in their lives, Joe brings home a unicorn (which is actually a goat) since he hopes that his ‘unicorn’ will fulfil his friends some wishes. Mr. Kandinsky needs a steam press for his shop and Shmule needs to buy a ring for his beloved Sonia. Joe and his mother also have a wish – to join Joe’s father in Africa. Will Joe’s ‘unicorn’ really be able to fulfil all these wishes?

A Kid for Two Farthings is a lovely book full of wonderful people who work very hard and who have humble wishes. Although they are very busy, Joe’s neighbours still make time for little Joe because the boy doesn’t really have anyone to talk to, since his father is away and his mother is working. Joe really likes to be surrounded by his neighbours, because he can ask them many questions and thus, he gets the attention he needs. In return, Joe wants to do everything in order to see his friends happy. That’s why he brings home a ‘unicorn’ – the little boy hopes that his new ‘pet’ will grant all of their wishes.

I really liked this touching book and I liked reading about little Joe. The little boy is very curious and has a great imagination. He believes in the magic of his ‘unicorn’ and he wants to help his friends and see them happy. Joe is very playful and inventive; he always wants to know everything and that’s why I liked him so much. I also liked the other characters, as they are all very friendly, humble and warm, despite the fact that their lives are hard. Mr. Kandinsky is a very great person and he is like a grandfather to Joe. When the little boy brings home his ‘unicorn’, Mr. Kandinsky doesn’t tell Joe the truth, because he sees how happy Joe is. Therefore, he lets Joe believe that his goat is a unicorn, which can grant wishes and make people happy. Mr. Kandinsky encourages Joe’s imagination and creativity and that’s why I liked him so much!

Overall, I must say that A Kid for Two Farthings was a great book, which I enjoyed very much. It’s a quick read and I recommend this adorable little book to everyone who likes to read books set in the past and to everyone who likes to read a heart-warming and hopeful story.

Andreea

The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

The Carne sisters, Deirdre, Katrine and Sheil have been making up stories since they were children. Now a journalist, Deirdre and her sisters still can’t resist making up these stories, including their talking nursery doll Ironface and their imagined friendship with real Judge Toddington, whom the sisters affectionately call Toddy. The Carne sisters live in a bohemian house with their mother, who likes to join her daughters in their creative game and together, they often tell stories of people whom they never met, pretending to know them intimately. But when Deirdre meets Toddy’s real wife one day, the Carne sisters are confronted with reality. Will this event now put an end to their childhood fantasies for ever?

The Brontes Went to Woolworths was such a delightful book and I am so glad that I read it. I must admit that I had some difficulties when I first started reading it. I don’t know what it was, but I found it hard to read on at first. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t really know what was real and what was not as I first began reading this book, but once I read a few pages, it got better and I could really enjoy this wonderful book. While reading The Brontes Went to Woolworths, I had to laugh many times, because the Carne sisters and their made-up stories were so hilarious! The characters in this book are all witty, charming and funny and you can’t help but adore them. At times, I wished I could accompany the sisters on their journeys and adventures and while I read this book, I thought about how wonderful it must be to have sisters. I only have a brother, so I don’t really know how it is to have sisters, but sometimes, I wish I had sisters, because I imagine that it must be great, especially having sisters while growing up. Sisters can share intimate details with each other, they can talk about their feelings, emotions and other personal things, because they go through the same changes and make similar experiences while growing up. And that’s why I really loved this book so much! I liked how Rachel Ferguson depicted the Carne sisters and I loved the fact that they have such a special relationship. They care deeply for one another, protect and help each other whenever there is a problem; there’s just such a deep affection between the sisters and they have such a strong bond, which I really admire.

However, the Carne sisters are not the only likeable characters. The book is full of intelligent, amusing and engaging characters. Toddy, his wife Lady Mildred and Deirdre’s mother are just a few of them and you will long to find out more about them with every page you read. While reading The Brontes Went to Woolworths, you will find yourself transported to a London full of creative people who are smart, eccentric and hilarious and you will want to read on forever as you will delight in exploring a different time and place.

Although this book is very amusing, it is sad at the same time, at least that’s what I found. As the story evolves, you will ask yourself why these girls feel the need to make up stories and pretend to know people they have actually never met. Furthermore, you will learn how imagination can help people cope with various things and how it can make such a difference in somebody’s life.

Set in London during the 1930s, The Brontes Went to Woolworths captures a time that is long forgotten and an atmosphere full of charm and warmth. The reason why I love to read books that are written in the past is because they portray a different time, where people behaved in another way and where people had a different view on life.

I loved everything about this wonderful book –its eccentric and clever characters, the dated language, the setting and especially all those funny made-up stories! I highly recommend this book to everyone out there who is interested in Interwar Literature and to everyone who likes to read books set in the past.

‘The Brontes Went to Woolworths is part of THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP, a new library of books from the early twentieth century chosen by readers for readers.’ For more information, please visit Bloomsbury Publishing

Other reviews:

Things Mean A Lot

Serendipity

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

Andreea