Thursday, March 06, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Four or five years ago I was browsing in blissful Daunt Books in Belsize Park when a wonderfully designed plain grey book cover caught my eye. It was a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. This was the beginning of my love affair with Persephone Books, a privately owned imprint based in London’s Bloomsbury. They specialise in re-discovering out of print and forgotten classics by (mostly) women authors from the twentieth century, ranging from novels to cook books, memoirs to travel.

Published in 1938, and set a few years earlier, Miss Pettigrew fits into the genre of gorgeously romantic, often bittersweet, beautifully written period literature that includes Nancy Mitford & Georgette Heyer’s entire oeuvre and The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The movie of the book opens here this week, and I attended a preview screening this evening. The casting is excellent,(Amy Adams is perfection as the ditzy co-lead, nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse) the set design ravishing, the costumes fabulous, but the cinematography is gloomy and the simplicity and charming heart of the book has been replaced by rather too much moralising and some shocking liberties with the plot that don’t really stand up to much scrutiny.

Still, it’s enjoyable and lovely to look at, even if the trailer cherry picked all the good moments.