Sunday, January 3, 2010
What a wonderful novel to start the new year! Major Pettigrew is one of those characters that I'd love to invite over to dinner. Simonson has written a character so full of flaws, virtues and inner conflict that you can't help but love him. The novel revolves around a conflict between following your heart and accepting new ways of looking at things, and wanting to retain the courtesy and civility of the past. Change is never an easy thing, and Major Pettigrew does a lot of self-examination in order to grow and change, while still retaining the true courtesy and refinement that makes him a man that everyone can count on in a crisis.
Major Pettigrew's relationship with Mrs. Ali, a woman from a Pakistani family and a shop keeper in the village, gives us a good view into the elements of change in a society. It's never easy, it's fraught with conflict from the people who don't want to think or change their attitudes, and it has it's rewards once you give up your resistance to change. Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew have a relationship that transcends ethnic differences and traditions. They have a delightful, energetic relationship, full of intelligence, love of words and books, and they are both very witty. I loved the conversations between the two. I identified with the Major's insistence on manners and courtesy.
This is one of my favorite books from the last few years. Not classic literature at all, no, but it's skillfully written, a great plot and wonderful characters that I'd like to know personally.
I read an advanced reviewer copy--the book will be released in the US in March.