On St. Patrick's Day while it was perfect London weather in Columbia, we drank our tea, had our snacks and compared Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand to J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. They are not exactly the same, but for a debut novel, Simonson sure has captured the English class divides very well already. If you read closely, this is a humorous book that speaks to people of all races. What older person has not felt disconnected from the younger generation and what parent has not had his frustrations with his adult offspring? Major Pettigrew is no exception to this rule as he contemplates strangling his son, Roger, while trying to date Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani woman, after the death of his brother.
Should it matter that she's Pakistani? Apparently, and Roger included on this, if you're not an Englishman, why should you get any attention? Unless you have money, then we're not talking. At one point, Roger tells his father that they should leave the immigrants alone. When Major asks, "what about Americans?", Roger responds with "don't be silly, Americans are just like us." But this doesn't stop Major from pursuing Mrs. Ali, who happens to be one of the only ones who understands what he's going through. And it's not just grief. It's also the guns. The guns should have belonged to him, but they went to his brother. This is making probate difficult.
When Sandy leaves Roger, Major has a hard time deciding whether he should get involved. He likes Sandy. But now his son's heart will be broken. Should a father get in the middle? Simonson writes about what you think on a daily basis. She puts into words what you were thinking at one point, but haven't yet expressed:
"He didn't like being driven by a woman. He hated their cautious creeping about at intersections, their heavy-handed indifference to the nuances of gear changing, and their complete ignorance of the rearview mirror. Many an afternoon he had crept along the winding lanes behind some slow female driver who blithely bobbed her head to a pop radio station, her stuffed animals nodding their own heads in time on the rear shelf."
Do you drive like that?