Thursday, March 7, 2013

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Summary from Goodreads:
Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition.

When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?

Listened to February/March 2013

Library Book on CD

4 Stars

My review:
This book was recommended to me by my sister-in law.  I decided to listen to it on CD because I occasionally have a short attention span with books and I was concerned that this one was going to be one of those occasions.  I'm glad I did an audio book because the "reader" was excellent and I was able to listen while driving on a couple of long drives.  I honestly don't know if I would have gotten through the entire book if I had to read it.  I just don't know.

Because I listened to this book on CD it almost felt like I was listening to Masterpiece Theater.  I love Masterpiece Theater, so that is a good thing.  For some it may not be.  The main players in the story are older (the two main characters are 68 and 58 years old).  The setting is southern coastal England in a country village.  There isn't anything "young and hip" about this book.

Some great things: 
The characters.  The author describes them well, we know who they are, what they look like, we probably know somebody like them.  Some of them are hysterical and quirky.  Others are as annoying as anything.  Some are outright rude and we can't stand them.  Some we love.

The setting.  Again, the author has described this village, the environmental surroundings, the quaint homes and grand manors, and the social clubs with enough detail that we can picture this place.

There were some great individual scenes in this story.  There were some very funny exchanges in dialogue.  The humor was dry and witty.  

Some not so great things:
I didn't like how much swearing there was.  
Sometimes I just wanted to get on with the story, enough with the descriptions.

This was a mature book for those that are interested in mature subjects.  This was not a light read (or listen, in my case).

Personal note:
When I was 4 my family moved from Maryland to Brussels, Belgium.  Six months later, I started Kindergarten in a French speaking school.  I don't remember much other than being confused and upset that I didn't understand what people were saying.  I was young enough that the language came to me quickly and I was able to adjust to the new surroundings.  Although I was a foreigner, the children easily accepted me.  I think young children are much more accepting of anyone.  Four and a half years later, when I was 9 years old, my family moved back to Maryland.  I was entering the 4th grade.  This transition was difficult for me. I was American, I spoke English.  For much of my 4th grade year I was treated as a foreigner.  There were children in class who proclaimed that they taught me English.  They would speak slowly to me.  I was made fun of for the clothes I wore.  I often felt so misunderstood.  Why didn't they understand that I was just as American as they were?  I think the older age made a difference.  

I realize that our situations were totally different, but with this little bit of personal history, I felt for Mrs. Ali.  Although her heritage was Pakistani, she was every bit as English as any of the people in the village.  I felt her frustration.  

Warnings: Swearing, premarital sex (nothing described in detail), abortion, child out of wedlock

I would not let my 15 year old read this book.  This is definitely an adult book. 

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