Sunday, November 14, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the Major forms a friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shop owner from town, after the recent death of the his brother. They have both lost their spouses years before and are drawn together by their love of books. However, this relationship, which is becoming romantic, is seen as scandalous by the town's people, as Mrs. Ali will always be considered an outsider. The Major has a fight on his hands if he wants to continue seeing Jasmina.

Simonson's debut novel was an absolute joy to read. I loved it. The story was just quaint and delightful. It had so many facets beside the relationship. It was also about decorum, honour, respect, traditions and cultures. Because the Major was an older proper English gentlemen, there was no gushy romance involved in the story. His intentions were suggested rather than displayed openly. I also quite enjoyed the side story of the Major's guns. The guns were given to the Major and his brother shortly before their father's death. The stipulation was that when one of the brothers died, the other would get both guns. With the passing of the Major's brother, the guns should belong to the Major. However, not everyone agreed. I'm not a fan of guns at all, however, the Major's outrage and attitude about them was quite entertaining. Had they been arguing about something else (antique coins or the like), I would have shared his annoyance.

I adored the Major. He was proper, chivalrous, humble and utterly charming. He stood up to some characters and came to the defence of others. He did so many great things in the book, I wanted to stand up and cheer him on. I also really liked Jasmina, Mrs. Ali. I think she got stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to her nephew. I didn't envy her position. That part of the story line was quite enlightening with respect to her culture.

Favourite quotes:
He had forgotten that grief does not decline in a straight line or along a slow curve like a graph in a child's math book. Instead, it was almost as if his body contained a big pile of garden rubbish full both of heavy lumps of dirt and of sharp thorny brush that would stab him when he least expected it. (page 35)

--America wielded her huge power in the world with a brash confidence that reminded him of a toddler who had got hold of a hammer.(page 173)

Life does often get in the way of one's reading.(page 200)

A couple may have nothing in common but the color of their skin and the country of their ancestors, but the whole world would see them as compatible.(page 265)

New word Alert:
ossified (page 8): hardened
scimitars (page 28): Arab sabre
tumescent (page 33): swelling
lugubrious (page 35): sad
inveigle (page 188): entice, deceive
ghillie (page 325): another spelling of gillie, which is a Scottish game warden. (I'd like to thank Helen Simonson for emailing the correct definition of this word.)

Highly recommended. I'd love to read another book by this author. Perhaps a sequel to this one?

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Random House website.

For more information about the author and other cool stuff, please visit Helen Simonson's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9780385668644(Hardcover), 355p.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really looking forward to reading this one, which is about to come out in paperback. Glad to hear you liked it!


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