Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
Random House
November 2010
384pp

The Short of It:

Full of charm and delightful in many ways, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand manages to entertain while dealing with some heavier themes.

The Rest of It:

Major Ernest Pettigrew lives alone in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside. His brother, who lived very closed to him, passed away suddenly and he is left with a deep sense of grief. Having lost his wife only a couple of years before, the Major finds it incredibly hard to deal with the sudden loss of his brother.

The local shop owner, who lost her husband a few years before, befriends him. Jasmina Ali is charming and exceedingly thoughtful. She takes him under her wing, so to speak. They enjoy walks along the waterfront, many cups of tea and conversation over books they’ve read. Their friendship is quite endearing and slowly evolves into something more.

As pleasant as their relationship is, it’s marred by racial tension as Jasmina is Pakistani and the quaint village they live in, is not willing to accept the possibility of a relationship between the two.  Additionally, the relationship is tested by family members on both sides. What was at first charming, becomes quite challenging as they attempt to navigate uncharted territory.

2010 Indie Lit Awards Lit Fic Finalist

I’ve heard many great things about this novel but I was under the impression that it was a “light” read so I wasn’t planning to read it. However, it was chosen for the *Indie Lit Awards Lit Fiction Short List so as I judge, I am required to read it. I’m very glad I did.

Although very readable, I wouldn’t call this a  light read. There is quite a bit of racial tension throughout the novel. Money is a large theme as well…the haves and the have-nots are present here as well as commercialism, religion, etc. In between all of this is a pleasant story with an endearing protagonist.

What I enjoyed the most were the descriptions of the village and the houses within it. The mention of the grounds, the china, the description of meals eaten and enjoyed. Simonson is brilliant with setting.

However, as charming as it was, there were a few passages that seemed a bit far-fetched and sort of took me out of my comfy spot. Overall though, I enjoyed it and fell in love with the Major.

Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Source: Purchased

*The literary fiction winner will be announced in February 2011.

Review: Last Night in Twisted River

Last Night in Twisted RiverLast Night in Twisted River
By John Irving
Random House
June 2010
592pp

The Short of It:

Unforgettable characters and a truly unique story are something reader’s expect from an Irving novel. Last Night in Twisted River delivers on both counts.

The Rest of It:

The story begins in a New Hampshire logging camp in 1954. Twelve-year-old Daniel accidentally kills the local constable’s girlfriend, which forces him and his father to flee town. As fugitives, they move from place to place, making friends along the way.

Told over the course of five decades, Last Night in Twisted River is many things. It’s definitely a story about a father and a son, but it’s also very much a story about friendship. In this novel, friendships remain true and loyalties prevail.

I fell in love with many of the characters in this novel. Dominic could not love his son more. The passages where he reflects upon Daniel literally caused my heart to ache. Some may argue that Dominic’s decision to flee does more harm than good, but when it comes to the protection of your child, people often make rash decisions. I didn’t hold it against him.

Oh, and Daniel!. He’s flawed in many ways. He seems to pick all the wrong women and has a tendency to drink too much, but the love that he holds for his father is enough to make you love him. He’s cautious, until he’s not. Which is sort of an ongoing theme throughout the novel. He grows up to be a writer and it’s through his writing that we get to know the real Daniel.

My favorite character of all though is Ketchum. Ketchum is their logging friend who remains a constant source of support for them. Although he is my favorite, I’ll let you experience him for yourself when you pick-up the book.

I do have this to say about Irving’s depiction of women… I’m not sure if he loves them or hates them! In this novel, the women are very bold, surly types. Most have questionable manners and lack good hygiene, yet they are quite important within the story itself. I enjoyed them, because although they lacked social graces and often, common sense, they were endearing in some way.

I love how Irving is able to walk a reader through a story. He takes your hand, and glides you through the chapters as if you’re a character in the story. I don’t believe there was ever a moment where I felt lost. His voice comes through so clearly. It’s one of the things that I love about Irving’s writing.

Last Night in Twisted River is a bit long, but well worth the effort. It will be on my fave list for 2010 and will probably be a favorite of mine for a long time to come. There aren’t many books that you want to reread right after finishing. That’s how I felt about this one.

Source: Purchased