Title: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Author: Helen Simonson
Published: 2010 Random House
Read For: Indie Lit Awards
My Rating: 3 stars
I have a soft spot for gruff older gentlemen, so it came as no surprise that I loved Major Pettigrew. The Major, a widower in his 60s, had lived a quiet, rather predictable life until his brother passed away. Amid the struggle of dealing with this sudden grief, regularity and routine were disrupted and the Major found himself having to think about many things in a new light.
Many hefty issues are lightly touched on in this romp through the modern English countryside: racism, immigration and assimilation; manners, values, and parenting; social, moral and familial obligations. For all those weighty themes, however, the book remains rather light. Grief is touched on in the beginning of the book, although the mood soon lifts, as the Major is forced to focus on other issues. There are a lot of stereotypes brought to light throughout the book, especially in regards to British and American differences, but even these are handled in a humorous manner. I kept thinking, hoping really, that there would be some real insight into some of these issues, but that never seemed to happen.
The characters are very easy to picture, as well as much of the countryside where the story takes place. It was almost like watching a movie the way each scene was so vividly laid out. The downside to this, for me, was that even the well developed characters, the Major and Mrs. Ali for example, seemed to be portrayed from a step away. They were all...characters.
Despite the fact that this ended up feeling like a very average read for me, I would still recommend it under the right circumstances. What felt to me like a book that didn't know what it wanted to be, seems to come off to most people as having a little of everything. A subtle difference, perhaps, but one that can greatly affect your final impression. It was a very sweet story, (or "cute" to quote fizzythoughts,) and maybe it isn't Pettigrew's fault that I expected a little bit more.