I am so excited to participate in my first Persephone Reading Weekend (hosted by Claire and Verity)! I have read so many reviews of Persephone books over the last few years and drooled at the sight of all those beautiful gray covers with those fun cloth designs, but alas, I have always stayed on the sidelines. But now I am a participant! And while it's very difficult to find Persephone editions of books here in the States, I'll keep my eye on their catalog and be sure to scan shelves for those distinctive covers, too!
My first foray into the world of Persephone was the Cinderella-esque book Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It was a fun, quick and light read through 1930s England and exactly the sort of story I wanted to read in the midst of all the stress and turmoil of final exams and my continuing search for a summer internship.
What I liked about this book (and which was changed in the movie) is that there is no real villain. I suppose there is one character who is villainous, but I wouldn't say he's the villain. Instead, it's more a coming of age story- in which one character becomes more mature and takes control of her life and another character loosens up a bit and therefore gets more control of her life. I loved the contrast between Delysia and Guinevere and the way the two played off each other. The author, Winifred Watson, didn't pass judgment on either woman's way of life. Rather, she showed how the two complemented each other and each made the other stronger and more confident.
The book takes place in the late 1930s and there is a small hint of anti-Semitism that comes through that, from today's vantage point, seems quite telling. And just the whole experience of Miss Pettigrew's life until this one day- how utterly lonely and friendless she was, how little fun and enjoyment existed in her life- was so sad to me. But perhaps it was because of her loneliness that her blossoming into a confident and friendly person was so lovely to see and made it so easy to cheer her on.
I think many of us don't live up to our ideal selves. It's easy, especially when things get difficult, to become insular. It's sometimes easier to be secure in loneliness than it is to take the risk of walking into a situation that will be uncomfortable or scary or both. But then we risk not realizing our full potential. Miss Pettigrew went through so many years of life thinking she was dowdy and sad and lonely, and then came one day when she was confident and funny and fabulous. That gave her the confidence to approach her new life with vim and vigor and go after what she wanted. Even though throughout the book, she was nervous and scared and distinctly out of her comfort zone.
In that way, this book was exactly what I needed to read at this time. February is always a depressing month for me, but it's even more depressing now that I'm trying to find summer employment and get through classes that don't particularly interest me. It was refreshing to read about Guinevere Pettigrew and her fresh approach to life. And to see her happy ending was just what I needed to put a smile on my face. A fun and entertaining read and a great introduction to the Persephone series!