Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
by Helen Simonson
ISBN 978-0-385-66866-8, 384 pages
Anchor Canada, 2010
Helen Simonson is a master of satire. This book is funny, but in the clever-you-must-work-for-it British kind of way, not the look-at-me-I-Love-Lucy American kind of way.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the first novel for Simonson, who was born and raised in England. She paints a picture of life in the charming British village of Edgecombe St. Mary. Her main character is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), a Pakistani-born Englishman who develops a relationship with an English-born Pakistani woman.
These two characters both embrace and rebel against their cultural heritages and family obligations. Major Pettigrew requires propriety in all things, even brewing tea or borrowing books. He thinks “Major” should be used like a first name, and he refers to the woman who is his love interest as “Mrs. Ali” up until . . .well, until it’s really not appropriate anymore. Mrs. Ali struggles to find a place for feminine independence in her patriarchal family system.
Simonson draws her characters well. You will recognize unpleasant characteristics you know to be true of people in your own life. You will squirm when you recognize unpleasant characteristics you know to be true about yourself.
The publishers describe the book as a love story, but it is more about facing change. Both characters must grope around in their lives to discover which parts to keep as part of a solid foundation and which parts to gouge out as flimsy with dry rot.
This book is a charming, pleasant read, especially if you like satire. If you don’t appreciate the subtleties of satire, it will be a tougher sell.
Posted on June 13, 2012, in Anchor Canada, Book Club, Book reviews, Books I bought, Fiction and tagged Anchor Canada, books, character-driven, facing change, Helen Simonson, literature, love story, Random House, satire. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.