Looking for an undemanding but satisfying novel to read this summer? I highly recommend Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, especially if you are an Anglophile like me.
This is Simonson's debut novel and I'm looking forward to more from her. The main character, Major Ernest Pettigrew, embodies the older "stiff upper lip" British generation, and his fractious relationship with his yuppie son Roger symbolizes the differences in outlook between their generations.
Major Pettigrew is a great character--he exhibits a dry British wit that made me laugh aloud several times while reading. The Major spends most of the novel trying to prevent his sister-in-law and niece (as well as son Roger) from forcing the sale of a pair of antique guns after the death of his brother. He sees the guns as a symbol of tradition and enduring family pride while the other members of the family are eager to exchange them for a boatload of cash.
Along the way Major Pettigrew (a widower) develops a romantic entanglement with the widowed storekeeper of Pakistani descent who shares his love of English literature. Her family problems and the cultural expectations that she is dealing with are another theme of the book. Their relationship is the vehicle for the author's exploration of the relationship between the townspeople and their Asian immigrant neighbors.
I won't spoil the novel for you by describing the plot any further, but the two themes are skillfully entwined and resolved by the end of the book. This is a classic modern English comedy of manners novel, well conceived and executed.
Two thumbs up!