I didn't do a What I Read Last Week post last week because a) it was Thanksgiving and b) because it was Thanksgiving, I didn't do much reading. However, in the past two weeks, I managed to finish two books, both of which were really good. That was a relief, because I'd run into a series of mediocre and underwhelming books lately.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson
Miss Pettigrew, an approaching-middle-age governess, was accustomed to a household of unruly English children. When her employment agency sends her to the wrong address, her life takes an unexpected turn. The alluring nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse, becomes her new employer, and Miss Pettigrew encounters a kind of glamour that she had only met before at the movies. Over the course of a single day, both women are changed forever.
My Take: This description doesn't do the book justice. The plot itself is a lot more interesting than that, although it did take me a couple of chapters to get into the story. It is hilarious, sweet, touching, and even a little inspiring. This book is published by Persephone Books, which specializes in "forgotten" literature of the twentieth century. So basically all the books they publish are on my "To Read" list.
My Recommendation: Definitely, definitely read this! Unless you don't like interesting and funny books.
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Set in the Midwest in the early twentieth century—the dawn of the automobile age—the novel begins by introducing the richest family in town, the Ambersons. Exemplifying aristocratic excess, the Ambersons have everything money can buy—and more. But George Amberson Minafer—the spoiled grandson of the family patriarch—is unable to see that great societal changes are taking place, and that business tycoons, industrialists, and real estate developers will soon surpass him in wealth and prestige. Rather than join the new mechanical age, George prefers to remain a gentleman, believing that "being things” is superior to "doing things.” But as his town becomes a city, and the family palace is enveloped in a cloud of soot, George’s protectors disappear one by one, and the elegant, cloistered lifestyle of the Ambersons fades from view, and finally vanishes altogether.
My Take: I didn't like this quite as much as Miss Pettigrew, but it was great nevertheless. It's not a book with a lot of action, but focuses more on the development of the characters, who are extremely likeable in spite of their shortcomings. Tarkington won the Pullitzer Prize for this book, but was overtaken in popularity by Orson Welles' movie version in the 1940s. I haven't seen the movie, but it's a shame that the book isn't more popular.
My Recommendation: It's not a book to read just for pure fun. But it is a classic and a wonderful, underappreciated novel. Definitely worth reading when you're in the mood for a classic.