Miss Pettigrew versus The Thing

Escapism comes in many forms. It can be an alien monster intent on killing all humans, or a middle-aged governess (failed) discovering an alternative life. I’ve read these two stories as part of the 1938 Club. You can find out more about this over at the Stuck In A Book blog.

There really is no common ground, other than the publication date of these two books, which shows the diversity of literature being produced in this year.

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Here we have Miss Pettigrew entering the strange alien world of night club singer Miss LaFosse (real name Sarah Grubb), when she is sent – erroneously – to her house for a post as governess. During the course of one day Miss Pettigrew becomes invaluable in sorting out the very complicated love life of Miss LaFosse and discovers that romance and financial security, might come, at last to her as well. This novel has achieved wide praise since it’s re-publication by Persephone Books and was made into a film in 2008.

This is a very entertaining and amusing twentieth century fairy tale, with engaging main characters. The male characters however, all seem on loan from a P G Wodehouse novel and this is 1938, so if you don’t want to read some fairly appalling comments on italians and jewish people, pass right by.  The Bechdel test is failed on a fairly epic scale on page after page with the women spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the men in their lives, who to my eye all seem a bunch of shits and chancers. However, not withstanding these blemishes, this is a good light read and a worthy rediscovered novel.


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So, from a novel centred on women, to one where they are not present at all, as in 1938 there seem to be no female scientists. This is the famous science fiction novella on which four films have been based. In 1951 as The Thing from Another World, in 1972 as Horror Express, in 1982 as The Thing directed by John Carpenter and most recently as a prequel to the Carpenter version, also titled The Thing, released in 2011. Everyone obviously hated the original storys title.

A group of scientists in Antartica discover an alien space ship frozen under the ice. Their attempts to free it destroy the ship but leave one frozen alien, who they intend to defrost and study. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything as it transpires.

This is the prototype story for all those stories and films in which an alien is discovered and then takes over/kills/absorbs humans (hello Alien franchise). It’s an interesting and absorbing tale, though with just a little too much science for me and frankly the complicated blood test to find out who was still human baffled me. However, I just did what I always do in these cases in SF novels, skip read to the action again.


So, if Miss Pettigrew met The Thing would her wit and common sense win out against the aliens super powers? No, she would be instantly absorbed, absolutely no contest, a bit like how the Batman v Superman film should have panned out.



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