Thursday, September 22, 2011

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND – Helen Simonson


Jay County Public Library Book Club met Monday to discuss Major... We had a nice turn out even though Elizabeth once again had not finished the book! Come on Lizzie get with the program ;-) This British import is a very good read and pretty short so it's a good one to take on a trip or if you have a bunch of appointments where you are in the waiting room a while. The writing style is quite nice and proper and one which I always enjoy. The beautiful artwork on the cover is creative and lovely also. Members had both paperback and hardcover both having the same illustration.

Major Pettigrew is a widower and a retired English teacher who lives in a close-knit community clinging to traditional values and that proper British-ness that we Americans love to read about and at which to often poke fun. The poor Major, still pining for his deceased wife whom he dearly loved, has lost his brother Bertie and now is struggling to keep his greedy son Roger and his niece from selling the family heirloom pair of hunting rifles. While he is fretting over the guns and preparing to participate in an important hunting event sponsored by the local gentry, the Major befriends Jasmina Ali. Mrs. Ali is Pakistani and the recent widow of a local food shop owner. She and he meet to read and discuss literature.

The locals would prefer a nice Christian woman for him but of course you know he will and does fall in love with Mrs. Ali. And the love story is not the only story here. The community has social events to plan and attend and Roger has an American fiance who is not assimilating any better than Jasmina into the community. Mrs. Ali's family also decides that she should follow the traditions of the Muslim community and sign over her establishment to her nephew taking her submissive and “rightful” place in the family. Tension mounts on all sides.

Poor Major turns to his best friend who is also the local vicar for solace and guidance but is sorely disappointed - and not comforted I might add. Instead he gets an intolerant sermon. Over all the prejudices and family feuding light still shines and the Major must take a “stand.” There is sorrow but also humor here to keep you reading. Loved the Major in all his stuffy properness.

Now I must say not all of our group was happy with the love story. One woman wanted the Major to follow the vicar's council because she disapproves of religiously mixed marriage (actually I think just Christian with anything else) and since she feels “Jesus is the only way” I am guessing she is not wanting the Major to love someone destined to go to hell (my words not hers) and so... I had wanted the vicar to comfort the Major and tell him God loves him and her as his children and even though there would be tough times with the community that if he had searched his soul and prayed about it, he should follow his heart and be thankful he found someone to love and care for.

There are also very funny episodes, one pertaining to the hunting event involving a lot of crying school children, protesters, and ducks. I will remember Major Pettigrew for a long time. Books like this one help to keep a trip to England on my bucket list.

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