Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

First line: Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother's wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.

From the inside cover: You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

My thoughts: This was my book club's selection for our meeting in February. It seems that once again, like with Little Bee, I had seen this book around and was intrigued, but it wasn't until we decided to read it for book club, that I picked it up. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a wonderfully sweet and charming love story between two unlikely people. While the book revolves around the relationship between the Major and Mrs. Ali, it is much more than just that. It is also about decorum, honor, respect, traditions and cultures. As the Major and Mrs. Ali come closer due to their shared griefs and their common interests, both of them are challenged to look at their own world views and to face the discrimination and shallowness of some of their friends and relatives. The two of them - the quintessential local and the attractive outsider - must navigate the gossip and outright prejudice of their stilted society. While there is a bit of suspense and action in the novel, it is mainly character-driven and very well written. I was drawn into this story from the moment it started and hope that Helen Simonson creates more wonderful stories like this one. I only wish I had bought the book instead of picking it up from the library...I have a feeling this is going to be a book that I will reread a few times and definitely want on my shelf of keepers!

(I borrowed this book from the library.)
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5 comments

  1. I have this on audiobook and can't wait to delve in (on my agenda this month)! I have heard only good things about it :)

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  2. @Felicia the Geeky Blogger It was so good I almost didn't want to finish reading it! I might listen to the audio myself, just to get a different perspective on it.

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  3. What a nice review. I did buy this one and need to read it soon.

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  4. new follower! cute blog, i am looking forward to reading this book! =] follow me? http://lindsaycummingsblog.blogspot.com/

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  5. @ Diane: It is such a good book that I can't believe I waited so long to read it!!!

    @ LindsayWrites: Thanks for following!

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