March 12, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

I am going to set the tone of my review from the start by declaring Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as my favourite read of 2010 so far, totally delightful is the term that jumped into my mind as soon as I had finished reading the book this afternoon and I have to admit that I then went into a period of mourning wondering what book I was going to pick up next that would come close to my experience of reading this one.

Major Ernest Pettigrew is a 68 year old widower living in the English village of Edgecombe St. Mary and as the novel starts he has just received news of the sudden and unexpected death of his younger brother, Bertie. It is at this time that the local shopkeeper, Mrs Jasmina Ali, also widowed, knocks on the Major's front door to collect his weekly paper money. This chance meeting at such a time of emotional vulnerability and need sets these two wonderful characters on the road to developing a relationship - although all does not go smoothly of course. The Major and Mrs Ali find snippets of time to be with each other to share their mutual love of good tea and good literature and they also find themselves brought together, quite unintentionally, by the organising of the annual golf club dance. The prejudices of the local community as well as their own family and friends erects barriers to their feelings for one another and the progression of their relationship and the conflicts these scenes bring to the novel only strengthen it as a whole.

I almost didn't pick this book up thinking it would be too light and fluffy with little substance - I couldn't have been more wrong. The writing, in particular the characterisation is strong and honest - and extremely funny in many places. The Major himself is a wonderful character with much to love - there are some resemblances to Alexander McCall Smith in both the content and characters of this book but I have to say that I think Simonson has out McCall Smithed McCall Smith! Simonson keeps her eye on the main storyline but there are plenty of other sub-plots to keep the reader interested and I felt that the author brought it altogether at the end (even if the last few scenes were a little needlessly dramatic - I was prepared to forgive almost anything by that stage!). This is a book I could go back and read again tomorrow and not be bored - beautiful!


Molly said...

I have seen several favorable reviews for this book - but none with this cover (it is really eye-catching).

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to curling up with this at the weekend more and more with all the positive reviews that I have been hearing and your cover as Molly mentions is lovely.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

I'm so eager to read this one, but still waiting on my library copy! Yesterday, I got so frustrated that I actually went to the bookstore, ready to buy a copy (I almost never buy anything I haven't read before). Of course, they didn't have it! I must be patient and take joy in anticipating the pleasure that, based on this review and others, the book is sure to give. So glad you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

I thought that this one mught be light and fluffy so it is nice to hear it is more than that. I might pick up a copy if it gets onto the Orange list.

Marg said...

I have heard nothing but good about this book! I have added it to my TBR list.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This one sounds terrific. I hadn't seen it before today!

JoAnn said...

I just put my name on the library hold list this week but, after reading your review, it may need to be purchased instead!

claire said...

Between your review and that oh-so-pretty cover, I give in..

Mystica said...

I've read so much on this book that I should try to dig it up from somewhere. We dont have it in our libraries so it has to be my local bookshops.

Danielle said...

Now that's quite a recommendation! I keep seeing this mentioned all over the place. There is a line for it at my library, but I will have to watch for it.

Karen said...

Hi Molly - I think this must just be the Australian cover - it seems very different to the other versions I have seen which I always think is very interesting.

Hi Simon - I hope it is the perfect book for you over the weekend.

Hi Claire - You are so patient!! I am learning to be more so when it comes to books but I always feel so frustrated when I am really looking forward to buying or borrowing a book and I can't find it!

Hi Jackie - I have no idea if it will make the Orange list but in my eyes it is definitely worth some sort of prize!

Hi Marg - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Hi Holly - I think it seems as though more and more people are discovering this one so you might hear more about it soon.

Hi JoAnn - I think this would be a beautiful and lasting book to own. I have already lent my copy out to my best friend.

Hi Claire - I think that is the only decision that can be made with this one!

Hi Mystica - My library didn't have a copy of this one either but in the end I was really glad that I had my own copy.

Hi Danielle - I say put a reserve on it now!

Jodie said...

Glad to hear it's one of those lovely books that's light without being inconsequential.

Cristina (Rochester Reader) said...

I just posted a review on this one and agree with you wholeheartedly. I thoroughly enjoyed it and also enjoyed the author's measured pace and gentle twists and turns.
Yes, the ending was a tad dramatic wasn't it? It made me wince a bit but, as you say, you could forgive just about anything by that point :-) I loved the Welsh scene ;-)

Karen said...

Hi Jodie - definitely not inconsequential - I think it raises lots of really important issues actually.

Hi Rochester Reader - Definitely a too dramatic ending for me - in any other book I might have been seriously disappointed but I was just so in love with the book by then I really didn't mind!

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