Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Helen Simonson Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand 2010
Delighted that Gail recommended it. Debut novel, and absolutely delightful. Has the perfect pitch sense of time and place for modern England, while also delving into small town / village politics, tough issues of immigration, cultural abyss, inter-racial marriage, death, and class. All in a book that is charming to read! The Major has a terrible shock with the death of his brother by massive heart attack. Mrs Ali is collecting paper money and shares a cup of proper english tea when he truly needs one. She is kind, understanding how he feels, what he is going through, but also because her world is changing as she is being forced back into her culture, no longer being allowed the english freedoms after the death of her husband. Everything reads true here – the voice is just right – several of the language idiosyncrasies of both Indian and English, how to brew the tea, what the neighbors will say, the gardening, the vicar, the silent disapproval, the club…. He has stood for all things English his entire life, honor, duty, decorum. He had such joy with his wife, while disapproving, but not knowing what to do about it with his son, his brother’s wife, some friends. It is as if Major has put on a new set of eyeglasses and is finally measuring his life and deciding to LIVE large, not just be English (this could be American, European, etc). The point is how we live. And it is so delicately and joyously described for us. This novel flowers.

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