Monday, August 15, 2011
CR Review #26: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
I originally signed up to do a half-cannonball and read 26 books. Last week, I finished reading my 26th book, which I absolutely hated. And I really didn't want it to be the book that met my goal of 26 books read and reviewed, so I put it aside and read a different book, hoping I would like it well enough to give it a glowing review.
Luckily, the book I picked up was Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.
Major Pettigrew is one of a dying breed -- an old-school Englishman who goes shooting, feels a man looks his best in black tie, and believes that the British countryside should be preserved at all costs. He lives in a small, southern seaside town on the estate where he was raised, and he is still mourning his wife, more than 3 years after her death. He lives his life according to protocol and with military precision.
And then, one day, his brother dies suddenly. The death of his younger brother affects him mentally and physically, and as he is about to collapse in his hallway, along comes Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani widow of the local shopkeeper, looking for his newspaper money. Mrs. Ali brings the major inside for some water, and shows him an unexpected kindness, later bringing a gift basket and checking in on him. The Major feels an urge to continue the friendship, and the two find that they have much in common -- a love for British literature (Kipling, in particular), love for their family and spouses, and a respect for rules and the "British way". But because they live in a small town, his friends and neighbors and confused by his sudden friendship with the "Paki" shop lady, and many derogatory comments are made, and friendships and family relations are strained and tested on both ends.
This is a beautiful love story, written with such rich description it made me want to get on a plane and go driving around the British countryside. I've read that it will soon be a movie, so I pictured Jim Broadbent (who I've loved since Iris) as the Major and Shohreh Aghdashloo as the lovely Mrs. Ali.
So glad I picked this up, and so relieved I liked it better than the other book (review of that to come...).