Sunday, March 21, 2010

Regencies

What makes a Regency novel? Is it the year in which it is set, or is it the style of the book? I've never really thought about this, but a few days ago I read an absolutely fabulous book, which for some reason I'd never come across before, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

It's brilliant - funny, endearing, exactly the sort of book I adore. It isn't a Regency in terms of its setting, the book is set in the 1930s, but in every other way it's like a Regency novel. In fact, it reminds me of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.



Here is the plot: Miss Pettigrew, a poverty stricken spinster, is forced to seek employment as a governess. She turns up unknowingly at the wrong address, and is confronted with Miss Delysia LaFosse, an alluring nightclub singer.

Miss Pettigrew has been warned all her life against everything Miss LaFosse represents: glamour, allure, lipstick, lovers, romantic entanglements. But Miss Pettigrew can't afford to be fussy and so she stays.


What happens next is a glorious comedy in which Miss Pettigrew finds friendship and fun. She also finds hidden depths. Like a female Jeeves - though her triumphs are usually the result of happy accidents rather than great brain - she manages to untangle the life of her new employer.

She is a kind of Miss Bates turns Grand Sophy and the results are heartwarming and hilarious. So although it's set in the 1930s, to me, in a funny kind of way, it's a Regency.

I never thought, when I picked it up in a bookshop last week, that I was holding in my hands one of my yet-to-be-discovered favourite novels. What a treat!

Amanda Grange

6 comments:

Julia Justiss said...

The book was made into a lovely movie that came out in the US last year, maybe? Haven't read the book so I don't know how closely it follows, but the movie was charming. You might try searching for it on Amazon.

Jane Holland said...

Oh no, groan. Yet another to be added to my TBR list!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I agree with you! 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' is one of my favourite books. It's like tomato soup - very comforting if you're feeling down. There are places where I always laugh out loud - and I've read it many times.

I was very disappointed with the film which is a travesty of the book and Miss Pettigrew is completely mis-cast.

Jane Odiwe said...

I have an illustrated version of this book which Persephone books bought back into print. It really is a fab book - I enjoyed the film, which as usual doesn't stick properly to the wonderful original, but anything with Ciaran Hinds in is good enough for me!

Nicola Cornick said...

I enjoyed the film too, but I absolutely love the book and was so pleased to discover it!

Charleybrown said...

I didn't know that there was a novel, I only knew of the film and have been wanting to see it for a while. I have NO idea what's been keeping me from watching it considering the great gents in it!