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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson (2010)

I stuck it out and finally finished Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.  Phew, it’s finally over.

Simonson’s debut novel is a parade of caricatures in an English village.  Major Ernest Pettigrew, a prim and proper retiree, spends his days pining over Pakistani shopkeeper Mrs. Jasmina Ali.  When he’s not drifting in a cloud of cartoon hearts, he’s brooding over his father’s heirloom pair of Churchill shotguns.  The Major’s father gave one to him and one to his brother.  Each of them were supposed to leave their own gun to the other upon death, so that the pair of guns would be reunited.  The Major’s brother conveniently omitted that little tidbit from his will, and upon the brother’s death, the Major must face his brother’s widow about the matter.  The Major is also troubled by his social-climbing yuppie son, whose selfishness blinds him to civility.

We had our book club discussion about this book last week.  At least one club member adored it, and a couple others liked it.  I did not like it, and only finished it out of some absurd sense of duty to finish things I’ve started.  None of the characters were relatable, and the plot was not compelling. On the whole I found it boring.  The characters were such ridiculous caricatures that it was at times insulting to read…I kept thinking “Really? You’re really describing people this way?”

This book has sold well, and she has won a fair deal of praise, including recognition from Alexander McCall Smith (whose own novels face similar problems with character development).  I don’t see the reason for any of this praise.  I’m just glad I crossed this one off my list, and can move on to the next book.

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