Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥

Reading this book was like taking a pleasant walk in the English countryside with your elderly uncle - a slow meandering pace punctuated by your uncle's sharply witty asides delivered periodically as you both bend down to observe a mushrooms growing in the shade of one of the countryside's towering yews. That's what I imagine elderly British gentlemen do during their walks, anyway.

It is the story of a retired Major who feels keenly the loss of the old ways. A fervent traditionalist, he almost surprises himself when he forms a friendship with Mrs. Ali, the keeper of the village sundry shop and a woman of Pakistani descent. The friendship between them develops into a sweet, cozy love and we get to see a man of somewhat rigid beliefs make the brave effort to adapt and change his staunchly held worldview with wonderful dignity.

The story was lovely, maybe a leeeetle bit slow, but the slowness of the pace was more than made up for by how FUNNY the story was. Just little hail stones of prickling observation sprinkled throughout, usually in the Major's "voice", that melted before you can pick them up and hold them in your hand to over-analyze them.

Here are a couple of gems: 

"Perhaps it was the result of evolution, he thought - some adaptive gene that allowed the English to go on making blithe outdoor plans in the face of almost certain rain"

"His face wore the glazed expression of someone calculating how much of a smile to deliver"

"...as I get older, I find myself insisting on my right to be philosophically sloppy"

"...they resembled to halves of a walnut, charming in their wrinkled symmetry"

"He opened his mouth to say that she looked extremely beautiful and deserved armfuls of roses, but the words were lost in committee somewhere, shuffled aside by the parts of his head that worked full-time on avoiding ridicule"

I better stop now or I'll just end up quoting the entire book! 

Ok, ONE more and then I'm really stopping:

"I always thought it important to decide where one would be buried, and then one could sort of work life out backward from there."

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