Monday, November 16, 2009

Simonson, Helen (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand)

[An Early Reviewer copy from LibraryThing. Thanks LT!]

I know it's been ages since I updated this review site. No excuse, really, except I was up to my eyeballs in other things. I owe the site a few reviews, so those will be forthcoming.

In the meanwhile... this LT book was really quite delightful. It's not an easy task, trying to combine two cultures into one book effectively, portraying the curiosity, fascination and at times rancor of each side without writing a textbook.

The clash between the old Brits and the new Pakistanis in England is well-known, and I was concerned that Simonson would not be able to do justice to both sides. She doesn't pull this off perfectly-- although the characters' choices make the novel move breezily, they at times feel forced or ridiculous. (Why would the Major take his guns to the cliff? Plot device.)

What seems to work well is two-fold: the humor and the affection. It was not at all surprising to me that the Major would fall for Mrs. Ali, and that it would confuse some and be completely understandable to others. Their journey is ably described through a variety of sarcastic comments that work because how else does one go through life without considerable irritability when it's throwing you curve balls at all junctures?

Mostly, however, I recommend this because I can't remember another book in recent memory that wouldn't let me go-- it was so easy to keep reading and forget everything but the story.

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