Friday, 9 September 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

Wonderful  observation of the human condition in all its forms.  Major Pettigrew is a sixty-something, widowed man with a house, a son and friends at the golf club.  The house looks onto the farmland belonging to a local manor house, the son is a self centred city whizz-kid, and the friends at the golf club are just people who accompany him in a round of golf.  Into his lonely life comes Mrs Ali, shopkeeper of Pakistani descent, widowed, well read, and with family baggage.  It is not long before they discover that they love the same things, and read the same books.  The major has a soft spot for Mrs Ali!  But he is a rather pompous soul, knows what's right and what's wrong, and does not understand the younger generation at all.  Then his brother dies, and his world is turned upside down for a number of reasons.  The village ladies, a cotterie of women led by the vicar's wife, believe that they know what he needs, and leave no stone unturned in trying to persuade him what that is.  One of their number is married to a golf club friend of the Major's, and it is she who is the prime mover in theming this year's dinner and dance at the club - in costume, and with a special theme harking back to the last days of the Raj.  The Major takes Mrs Ali as his guest.......
There were characters I detested, characters I loved, and all the while I was cheering for the Major with his pomposity just waiting to be pricked, his sharp and scathing sense of humour, and for Mrs Ali too, with all her family problems that were not of her making.  Helen Simonson is British, lives in the USA, and is obviously a great observer.  There wasn't a character in this book I didn't recognise.   A great little read for your holiday, an afternoon in the garden, a winter read by the fire.   A lovely story which kept me away from the housework!