Thursday, January 6, 2011
Published March 2010 by Random House
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours
Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) is everything you would except from a gentleman who had served in the British army: proper, honorable, knows his place and expects you to know yours. In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary, where he has lived his whole life, the Major is beginning to notice small fissures in society. In his own life, the changes are much more profound. Major Pettigrew's brother, Bertie, has just died. While the Major seems to genuinely grieve, he also seems to be equally concerned with what will happen with a gun his brother had, one of a matched set that the Major's father split up upon his own death but which he wanted reunited when anything happened to one of his sons. The fact that his father split the guns has always gnawed at the Major and he is more than a little perturbed when his niece and his own son begin talking about reuniting the guns only because they will sell as a pair for a great deal of money. Money the niece and son are wanting for themselves.
Roger, the Major's son, is nothing at all like the Major. As a much beloved only child, the Major's wife spoiled him terribly and he has grown to become someone obsessed with climbing the ladder, particularly in business. Since his wife's death, the Major in finding himself more and more estranged from Roger. But now Roger and his American (god forbid) girlfriend, are trying to become a larger part of the Major's life and he's not very sure he likes that.
Bertie's death causes Major Pettigrew to begin questioning everything and to strike up a friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani widow who owns a village shop. The two quickly grow closer, sharing their feelings about books, the loss of the spouses, and problems with their families. But becoming friendly with a Pakistani, and a shopkeeper no less, causes quite a stir in the society the Major keeps and forces him to make some decisions about the kind of man he really wants to be.
Although Helen Simonson now resides in the United States, she is British and brings the village of Edgecombe St. Mary and his inhabitants to life. It is hard to believe that she is not also a man who once served in the British military as convincingly as she writes the character of the Major. But the greatest strength of the book is the way in which Simonson was able to write about the conflict in Major Pettigrew as he was forced to confront his own prejudices and faults. It is a slow process, the proverbial "two steps forward, one step back" kind of change that is realistic but rarely seen in characters in books.
There were times in the book when I felt that Simonson fell back on stereotypes for her characters and the big climax was a bit far-fetched for me but I found the book utterly charming. It played like a movie in my head and anytime that happens, I know I'm in possession of a book that will stay with me.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour! For more reviews of this book, check out their site.