Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Helen Simonson)

I loved this book.

No, really. I can't think of a single bad thing to say about it.

Which is exactly what they said on Literary Transgressions when they reviewed it. So I'm really original, in addition to being a Mary Sue.

So this is the story of a man in his 60s whose wife has passed away; his brother passes away right at the start and forces Major Pettigrew to confront his own mortality, but only in a very quiet, subtle way. He lives in a smallish English town and follows a pretty set routine; but then he befriends the widow of a Pakistani shop owner, which defies both the expectations of others as well as his own. It's one of those books where it seems like nothing much happens, but you're gripped by the lovely writing, and then you get to the climax and it turns out a great many things have happened. Along the way, we see Major Pettigrew deal with his grown son, who isn't quite what the Major expected of his child. And there is a subplot about some valuable antique guns, which are the Major's most cherished possessions... until they aren't any longer.

What I think I enjoyed most is how the author didn't paint any of the characters as dislikable cliches. Everyone is mostly likable, or is forgivable -- even some of the Major's friends who disapprove of his relationship with the widow simply because she's Pakistani, even the self-absorbed son, even the crazy old aunt who stabs someone with knitting needles.

Of course, the book reminded me of everything I love about my favorite British movies and books, and that didn't hurt. I think this was Helen Simonson's first book, and I shall look forward to many, many more.


So it turns out I've read about 55 books already in 2010. 55!! That of course far surpasses my goal of one book a week for the year. I'm a good little reader. Always have been.


Carola Bartz said...

Hello Shannon - first time here, and I like it. I've never heard of Major Pettigrew, but this is on my reading list now - sounds like a book that I'd enjoy.
And my feet are always freezing as well!

Shannon said...

Thanks, Carola! Sometimes I get a little ranty, but mostly I'm a nice person.

It is a fantastic book.