Monday, July 23, 2012

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
After seeing this book around for over a year, I had studiously avoided it.  I figured, what's all that interesting about an older English gentleman nursing a school-boy crush on a shopkeeper?  However, after finding it on sale at Village Books (got to love the second hand carts by the front door), having my book-loving friend tell me it was a good read, I figured I had to give it a go.  I was shockingly, suprisingly, completely delighted by it.


The main character, Major Pettigrew, is a rather frumpy old English gent on the outside.  He doesn't like change, of any sort.  He's been widowed for six years and resides in a quintessential, sleepy old countryside village.  One would think that all the stereotypes of this type of book would be played out, with the busybody neighbors, snobby titled earls, and teenagers desperately in love.  However, in a creative and thoughtful manner, Simonson veers away from using any of these.  The major is a wickedly funny man, with the dry ironic British humor, and the love interest is a Cambridge-born Pakistani shopkeeper who is articulate, intelligent, and passionate.  Throw in a spoilt son, an environmental crisis in the village, a couple of historical pistols, and...oh yes, a culturally divided community who is insensitive and ignorant, and you actually have a wonderful book.  I wasn't sure for the first forty pages or so, and easily set it aside.  However, once I got to know Mrs. Ali, Roger, and of course, the Major, I actually couldn't put it down - another midnight bedtime!

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