Thursday, February 3, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a delightful first novel by Helen Simonson. Major Ernest Pettigrew is the quintessential Englishman, stodgy, prudent, understated and, above all, proper. The death of his brother sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper in the Major's English countryside village. Their relationship grows from their shared love of literature and the loss of each of their spouses.  The Major, a respected and deeply rooted member of village life, must deal with the small-mindedness of the villagers.  Ms. Ali struggles with the religious shackles of her family and the villagers' treatment of her as an outsider. The Major also must confront his relationship with his superficial and materialistic son, the London banker, who has left village life and the values of his father.

The novel is loaded with conflicts: intergenerational, cultural, religious, societal and modernization. Simonson beautifully sets the story in the quiet village and paints a convincing portrait of life in the village without becoming farcical or contrived.

What I love about the Major is his strugle.  He is firmly grounded in "old fashion" values ("In my day, respect was something to strive for. Something to be given, not taken."), yet he is impulsive and irreverent. Simonson has fun showing us how he reconciles his dualing sides. 

The major themes of the novel are not new – does love conquer all and can people get beyond their own cultural shackles? What’s fun is the setting and how the characters develop in this timeless novel. It is an optimistic and worthwhile read.

Recommendation: This is a great book club book and an otherwise fun, easy read. The themes and issues are universal and relevant. The story is accessible and worth the read.

Below, the author discusses her book.

On a separate note, I want to welcome the blog's many new readers.  I'm very excited to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and would love to hear any feedback.  Thank you for coming on this adventure with me.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like this one. Thanks, Morris!
    Happy 10th Anniversary!