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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson This is the best novel I’ve read this year and may be destined to make my top ten list. The well designed plot is pulled together with carefully crafted writing. I’m embarrassed to be so enthusiastic about it because it is actually a romance novel which is a genre I usually steer clear of.

But this is a romance novel that contains human lessons, tensions and struggles almost too numerous to count. The most obvious battle is racial, religious and cultural prejudices. Then there’s the struggle between generations and the expectations of sexual morality. There’s also the psychology of dealing with the loss by death of a loved one and the subsequent tensions of dealing with inheritances issues. Then there’s the issue of material objects becoming more important than human relationships. There’s also the issue of ageism. And many of these issues show up in parallel fashion in both the native English and immigrant Pakistani communities.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the plot also involves the political and economic issues related to future land use and development. Fortunately, the writing contains just enough wry humor to keep a smile on the reader’s face. The story ends with enough excitement to make it worth reading all the way to the end.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that the main character of the novel is a man about the same age as me which is very unusual for a romance novel. So maybe that fact tainted my judgment. But there’s almost nothing else in the story I can identify with.

The plot follows an elderly English widower, retired from a military career, who is very concerned about doing things in the proper way. He seems very judgmental of others, but ends up enjoying the company of a woman of Pakistani ancestry in spite of himself. His son has an American girl friend which of course is an insult to his English sensibilities. And the English-Pakistani woman has a nephew with whom she has a strained relationship. And then there’s the gossip going around the small English community in which they live. The intermingled and complex problems continue from there.