Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Book Review + Social Comment

Fresh from the triumph of her first post and the accompanying public acclaim ^_^ Moggsy is left with a dilemma…

Of course one has to follow up, or be judged a “one hit wonder”… As before I am seeking inspiration… while I wait for it ^_^ I thought I would mention a book I just read and really enjoyed.

This may be more a post for the girls in general, to start, but should turn out to have something for everyone, so don’t despair guys.

Now I am an avid reader and I do like a nice feelgood romantic novel. Life is so full of bad stuff anyway that I find gritty drama, where everyone has a horrid time, just a bit like more of the same.

So anyway, a while back I found myself browsing my local RL bookstore and came across a book called Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson. (ISBN-10: 190646202X, ISBN-13: 978-1906462024).


It is a reprint, originally published in 1938, set in London, England. A world that was on the brink of war, but did not seem to realise what it was in for.


The book follows one day in the life of Miss Pettigrew, like a fly on the wall documentary. Sort of if you had described the idea of a Michael Crichton TV script to Noel Coward and asked him to write it.

A day it turns out is pivotal for many of the characters, including the heroin Miss Guinevere Pettigrew.

She is a down on her luck Governess who, having suffered a sucession of dreadful employers and short on her rent, accidentally gets sent by her agency to the wrong job interview.

As a result she turns up at the door of night-club singer Miss LaFosse, under the mistaken belief she is looking for a governess…

Well as soon as she arrives, and before she can get a word in edgeways, she is plunged into a situation that she handles brilliantly ‘by the seat of her pants’, saving Miss LaFosse from certain disaster.

The story continues at this pace as Miss Pettigrew uncharacteristically throws caution to the wind and is plunged/dragged helter-skelter into the pre-war in crowd, by Miss LaFosse and her friend Miss DuBarry, proprietoress of a beauty salon, solving seemingly impossible problems for them as she goes, using a mixture of luck and common sense.

It would not be revealing too much to say that this is a delightful feelgood read that keeps the pace and interest up throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I do recommend it.

It has been made into a movie, but I have not seen that so can’t comment.

The only slight jarring note in the story, from my point of view, rather rammed home the concept that the past really can be another country in some ways.

And now some ‘hard edged political’ comment that should also reward any guys still with us for their heroic persistence. Yes. I know. I am being mean stereotyping, slapped hand *Ouch!*

This pleasant little story hinted a couple of times at an underlying assumed prejudice of the time in relation to Jews, and ‘foreigners’ in general, that are quite alien to, at least my, general experience today, though it could be others might not have the same experience.

Maybe that alteration in attitudes is something positive that came out of WWII.

It worries me to think that, possibly justified by the situation in Palestine, such attitudes may be becoming acceptable again, within certain religious, political , and academic circles, even actually promoted.

17 comments:

jmb said...

Good a book review, It fits right in here. I have at least two draft book reviews in the list somewhere.

I guess they resurrected the book because of the movie which does look interesting from the trailer and you have certainly made the book sound intriguing.

Let's hope you are right about those prewar hinted at attitudes not returning but unfortunately for some they never went away.

Mu Tai Dong said...

I learn Englisdh reading?

rlbates said...

You've been given an Arte y pico Award. Please, check my blog for details

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Feelgood romantic novel - for the guys?

Baht At said...

No the situation in Palestine doesn't make anti-wotsit acceptable - there are many jews who detest Isreal because of its similarity to the third reich in its attitudes towards arabs.

I'm of the "glass the whole lot over with a few dozen nukes" view - both sides are as bad as each other and what is worse they can't just get on with killing each other they have to annoy civilised people by bring their petty dispute to the attention of the world via their nutcase supporters in other countries.

leslie said...

I saw the movie and it was quite amusing, but don't recall anything of the anti-wotsit situation.

Carver said...

I'm so confused. I guess this book review is by JMB's other world, or is that second life persona.

I read mysteries to escape and used to fall back on classic ones I've already read before and half remember who done it. I've gotten to where it bothers me to read Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers (both of whom I've enjoyed through the years) because of the casual barely veiled anti-semetic references. Christie also has casual racial slurs against people of African descent.

I think at this point in my life the casual part bothers me as much if not more than something even more blatant. It reminds me that in the not so distant past, some of this probably barely registered with readers, if it registered at all.

Growing up in the south during the civil right's era, I'm by no stretch of the imagination naive about prejudices. I have found at my age that I've lost my taste for both of those authors for escape because I know I end up getting upset.

For some reason I can read books set in horrible situations where the violence is graphic and disturbing. I liked A Thousand Splendid Suns which I recently read, a great deal; better I think than the same author's earlier book the Kite Runner. So it's not like some silly old bat with prejudices that eek into her mysteries should set me off. I'm not that protected, but for some reason it does.

Sorry, I'm not sure how to comment to an other life character and fear I'm far to serious.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

JMB TY. I am not sure about it being resurrected just for the movie. I think the printing history showed some that probably were runs before the movie. On the attitudes… Maybe, but then let’s hope that those who hold them are too ashamed of themselves to voice them.

Lord James. It’s not actually against the law for guys to enjoy feelgood romantic novels/Movies… but I was not suggesting it was for the guys. More that they might like to argue about prejudices… feel free ^_^ knock yourself out.

Rlbates, an award?

Baht At. I am glad you agree that the situation in Palestine does not make anti Semitism acceptable.

I must in turn agree that both sides really do need their heads pretty thoroughly knocked together, if not perhaps actually being ‘glassed over’… but I take this a 'poetic licence' on your part.

One does despair that some people would rather live in a state of war than just get on together. There is the ‘I am absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong’ attitude at it’s ultimate.

Tit for tat escalation of harms done, religion, honour and revenge.

Leslie, I didn’t see the movie yet, do hope to. I expect they edited it out for the Movie. I think it was more thought rather than dialog..

Carver, Sorry to cause confusion. This is a real life book and movie. I am not JMB, she is JMB in sl too. I am someone completely separate she met in sl posting under the name of my sl persona/avatar and also posting on/contributing to her site. Hope that clears things up.

I do really get your point about the casual, almost naturally assumed quality of the prejudice being disturbing. That was what got to me about this book. It was only a tiny aside really, but to me it suggested a generally shared underlying attitude no one even felt was wrong. That was the really disturbing thing about it. Fortunately it was small enough not to spoil the book for me.

Your going off a book might also just be you changing as you get more knowledge, experience and your attitudes alter.. I find some books or authors I read and enjoyed years ago seem somehow flat now, no longer enjoyable or silly, and the odd book or author I didn’t much like before on a re examination years later seems much better than I remembered. Of course I do have old favourites I go back to from time to time too.^_^

Me, as I said, I generally like an optimistic or happy ending. I like interesting ideas too and really don’t like stuff that does not ring true within the story.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

JMB, I checked it out. The award thingy is actually for your blog and your hard work. So you need to pass it on ^_^

Liz said...

Miss Pettigrew is wonderful! A fabulous source for books of this ilk is Persephone Books in London (but on the net too). They reprint 'forgotten' classics, mainly but not solely by women.

Crushed said...

I think WW2 was an earth shattering experiene, in terms of prejudice, yes.

And I think it took up until the early fifties for it to sink in.

It took the full truth of the concentration camps to come out for people to really sit back and evaluate exactly how PEOPLE viewed other groups of PEOPLE.

'That Hideous Strength' by CS Lewis, published in 1945 but written over the previous year is set in a post war Britain imagined by Lewis.

There is one passage which stands out as reflecting how ingrained anti-semitism still was.

It refers to a newspaper article which looks for agitator groups to blame, and one group siezed on is 'Jews'.

We forget how ingrained this attitudes were, a world which believed in Zionist conspirators and the intrinsic superiority of the 'white race'.

CherryPie said...

Nice review, I have not heard of this one before!

mutleythedog said...

I will certainly give it a go. I am much in love with the era...

Dr.John said...

Prejudice never goes away it just hides. Hundreds of people who will never say so will vote against Obama because he is black.In this country a real anti-Arab prejuidice is growing.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Liz, Yes a lovely story.

Crushed. I think you are right.

CP and M, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Dr John, you may have some point. But at least if those who are irrationally prejudiced don’t communicate it then it can not so easily be spread and become current.

I wonder if prejudice in it’s literal sense of pre-judging is not a basic part of how humans think. I guess it must have had survival value for people in more primitive times.

The logic of “Ug’s granny got eaten by a tiger, therefore all tigers are dangerous” is a mental shortcut that allows a person to react, instead of being eaten while they ponder if this particular tiger is dangerous...

Now it is applied in complex situations that were not there when it got built into us and it does not necessarily work well with.

But that mental process cmight still be of ‘survival value’ today sometimes. Like on dark city streets when you see a gang, or the idea that dark alleyways are to be avoided, or don’t pet a dog with foam round it’s mouth. The gang may not be a threat to you, the dog may have been at a crème donut in a dumpster, but… we have pre-judged such situation.

I bet in the case of Arabs, thoughts either way generally never even generally raised to the level of consciousness of lots of people where they could even be unconscious prejudice…

Until that is people identified as, and with Arabs, started indiscriminately murdering innocent people going about their ordinary lives. So maybe the anti Arab prejudice was fanned, or even brought on in some people by that.

Maybe that tiger thing again. Like “Moslems/Arabs destroyed the WTC, therefore all Moslems/Arabs are dangerous”… short cut thinking?

Wolfie said...

I have found there is just a much prejudice on the other side of the fence, the only difference is I've never known anyone to criticise it.

What worries me is one day that book will seem like "the good old days".

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Wolfie, everything changes, sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse. Take dentistry for example...