Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

The rapid change in weather back to the drab and drizzly Manchester norm put me in the mood for a cosy, comfortable read last week and this utterly heart-warming debut (debut!? I can’t believe it!) was just the ticket…

So off we trot we to Edgecombe St Mary…our quintessentially British village, where the tea is brewed to perfection and a beautiful rose bush in your front garden is an absolute must. Retired and widowed, Major Ernest Pettigrew leads a comfortable, if somewhat solitary life in the old family home with the occasional venture out into the world to enjoy a spot of golf or shooting with his frightfully English neighbours. However, Ernest’s brother has just died, and we are thrust into his little world at a time when things aren’t quite as neat, tidy and calm as they would ordinarily be.

This event acts as a catalyst for the unexpected events ahead. Petty family squabbles over possessions mark a twist in Ernest’s life as he grows ever closer to the village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali, a friendship that throws up all manner of questions regarding the integrity of family and friends whose foibles and particularities we once shrugged off but that are now given a somewhat sharper edge…

This book is such a comfortable (again I can’t help but use that adjective) read and, as a result, an impressive debut novel. As a twenty five year old woman I could become friends and sympathise with a retired and often rather fusty seeming Major, whose interest in tweedy and traditional pastimes and ways of behaving were such a world a way from my own that I felt all the more passionate about his story because of it. I was delighted to discover Simonson’s feelings about the star of her book on her website, a passion for the old man she has created that is so strong that it transfers right over to the reader:

‘While it was often a struggle to write this first novel, it was never hard to spend time in the company of Major Pettigrew. From the first time he opened the door to his home, Rose Lodge, he has always seemed to live and be real – and my biggest challenge has been not to let him down by failing to tell his story. I hope you enjoy meeting him too.’

Books can sometimes become a little too ‘comfy’ and can therefore run the risk of becoming a little trite and staid, particularly when we are made to delve into the depths of English village life and run the risk of bumping into some of its stereotypically flowery, fussy characters. However, a risk is what we take with this book as our lovely story is usurped by irritating, cripplingly shallow sons and their American girlfriends..or indeed, the villagers en masse, whose casual racism, racism they barely notice themselves, I’m sure we have all seen all too often.  This unnerving, realistic edge transforms this book into a real page-turner and I was so, so very sad to finish it. (And a whole bag of Tetleys down by the end!)
Cuppa anyone?
In other exciting news, the lovely Cheryl McKenzie of The Write Game has been kind enough (and has made me blush in the process!!) to award Literary Relish a Stylish Blogger Award! You really are too kind .. Newbie that I am it has made me ever so happy to be able to share some of my thoughts on books and other titbits with so many talented bloggers and writers out there and I hope to improve the site much much more and make more connections with interesting people.
Please everyone do check out C.Lee McKenzie. A teacher and author of young adult fiction, it is a pleasure to connect with both her and any of you publishing your own work…
*Apologies for getting all gushy, I am feeling rather enthusiastic this evening!*

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