July 25, 2011
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand...
Helen Simonson's debut novel is a delightful and refreshing read. Set in a small community in Sussex, England, Helen Simonson has breathed life and personality into some enduring and memorable characters, beginning with Major Ernest Pettigrew himself; the demur, respectable but strong Mrs. Ali; the Major's social climbing son Roger; and the feisty and outspoken Amina.
This is not a "quick" read and the story doesn't move at a breakneck pace...it meanders and flows like a stilled river on a sunny summer afternoon. There is a sense of time not needing to rush and I truly felt that I was living a small village life much as these characters were doing. Characters? I think that's a misnomer. They became real, flesh and blood, breathing and feeling people to me.
As in any small village there are among other things, a Vicar and his wife, nosy opinionated neighbours where everyone seems to know everyone else's business and they do not hesitate to make it quite clear that voicing their opinions is their right and their privilege. There are the upper and lower classes and a distinct line drawn between them.
Cultural difference, racism, self absorption, learning what matters in life, and love are all neatly tied into this heart warming book, and yet for all the seriousness of the subject matter, there is laughter throughout. A sequel would be lovely but if that is not to be, I will definitely be keeping Helen Simonson on my radar for her future works, whatever they may be.