I started reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand on Friday and because I’ve been so busy with, well… life, I have been unable to read like I normally do. Despite not having enough time over the weekend to curl up with this book, it has grabbed me right from the start and I have been reading voraciously on the subway and even, clandestinely, at work. I absolutely love the character of Major Ernest Pettigrew. Helen Simonson has wonderfully evoked an old-fashioned British military gentleman in the most traditional sense. I imagine him with mutton-chop sideburns, chest pumped up, walking with a swagger, using his cane just so, a man used to a vast Empire, unchanging and staid. But he is devoid of annoying pomposity exhibiting, instead, charm and gallantry. He is a widower and is coping with the loss of his brother and an ingrate of a son. He is lonely.
He begins an unlikely friendship with a Pakistani widow, Jasmina Ali, who runs the local grocery. She is independent, clever, and well-read. She is quietly struggling to find her own place within a culture that expects certain behaviors from women, especially widowed women without children, and get by in a Britain that does not easily accept her as one of them.
The Major and Mrs. Ali come together and bond through their common loss of a spouse and a love of literature. They meet for the first time at his home for afternoon tea to discuss, of all things, Rudyard Kipling!
Their story is attractive and sweet but not mawkish and I look forward to finishing the journey with them.