Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
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.
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?
*The literary fiction winner will be announced in February 2011.