Mrs Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson


A few days ago I did a book versus film comparison of Winifred Watson’s charming comedy-of-manners, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. There’s lots to say about this book – the Cinderella re-telling, the themes of female friendship; and how to write witty and engaging dialogue.

I’m sure there were parts of the story that were truly scandalous when it was first published – start with the bed-hopping and casual cocaine references within the first dozen pages. There are parts that are scandalous now (racist remarks and comments about keeping women in line aren’t fit for modern audiences) but honestly, mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down* (and keep it in historical perspective while you’re there, peoples).

The film version of the story has possibly my favourite sets of all time (I want Miss LaFosse’s flat). It also has a brilliant soundtrack. But this is about the book so instead of a review, I’m giving some of my favourite passages from the book a new soundtrack.

Alive – Goldfrapp

“Miss Pettigrew had never in her life before dealt with a situation that needed such finesse.”


Let’s Go Crazy – Prince

“‘Oh dear!’ Miss Pettigrew’s virgin mind strove wildly for adjustment. ‘Kisses…in front of me. I mean such…such ardent kisses. Not at all proper.'”


I Want That Man – Deborah Harry

“‘You know, I think there’s something sort of, well, especially fetching about a négligé, don’t you think? And men are so difficult in the morning.'”


Jungle DrumEmiliana Torrini

“‘It’s no use, we women just can’t help ourselves. When it comes to love, we’re born adventurers.'”


Lay All Your Love on Me – ABBA (or the Erasure version here)

“He took hold of Miss LaFosse’s chin and tipped up her face. ‘No good thing was spoiled by a little waiting.’ He kissed her.”


You’re History – Shakespears Sister

“Miss Pettigrew saw things needed firm handling. She was getting to know her new role and was beginning to find a certain zest in attacking problems boldly.”


No More I Love Yous – Annie Lennox

“”When he’s gone you know you can live without him. Will you always remember that, so that however hard it is at the moment, will you promise me that every time in the future he asks you to do anything you’ll only agree to give him an answer later and wait until he’s been gone fifteen minutes before deciding, when the glamour has ceased to function?'”


Find This Anywhere – The Plums

“‘How-do-you-do?’ said Miss Pettigrew politely.
‘Lousy,’ said Miss Dubarry. ‘How are you?’
‘Oh…oh, fine,’said Miss Pettigrew, gasping, but hastily seeking sophisticated ease. ‘Just fine.’
‘Then you’re safely married,’ said Miss Dubarry gloomily, ‘or you’re not in love. I’m neither.'”


Delicate – Damien Rice

“‘As long as he is kind, that is all that matters. I have known,’ said Miss Pettigrew, ‘in my life a lot of good people, but few were ever kind.'”

4/5 Charming.

5 responses

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