Light read of old-fashioned values and romance

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Major Ernest Pettigrew (Ret’d) is not interested in the frivolity of the modern world.

Since his wife Nancy’s death, he has tried to avoid the constant bother of nosy village women, his grasping, ambitious son, and the ever spreading suburbanisation of the English countryside, preferring to lead a quiet life upholding the values that people have lived by for generations – respectability, duty, and a properly brewed cup of tea (very much not served in a polystyrene cup with teabag left in).

But when his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs Ali, the widowed village shopkeeper of Pakistani descent, the major is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the 21st century.

Drawn together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the major and Mrs Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more.

But although the major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner.

The major has always taken special pride in the village, but how will the chaotic recent events affect his relationship with the place he calls home?

Written with sharp perception and a delightfully dry sense of humour, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a heart-warming love story with a cast of unforgettable characters that questions how much one should sacrifice personal happiness for the obligations of family and tradition.

Eilleen: It was a bit too light for me, the writing reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith, I liked the father/son issues and the romantic side, but it was too light. I did want to finish, but in the sense of just wanting it done.

Val: I’ve got an old-fashioned husband and he identified with it, the dressing formally, standards should be maintained ...

Rosemary: I was rather horrified by the standards he demanded aged 68!

Linda: I found it a bit irritating, there were too many stereotypes.

Pam: Don’t you think this was because the situation was so serious, but I would agree it was a bit farcical. I liked the language, knowing Sussex, it resonated with me.

Dorothy: Some of the descriptions at the beginning went on too long, it improved as the story moved on though, her creative writing course showed through.

Karin: I thought it was like a comic opera without the music!

Rosemary: It seemed that she had a lot of little scenes in her mind that she wanted to weave into the plot – I wonder if these cameo moments worked?

Pam: As a quick read I really enjoyed the cliché of the locals, but also the way she dealt with racism. I just read it as a good read, I liked the tensions with the father/son politics.

Greta: I could easily see it in a film – lots of the characters would work well.

Anne: Yes, we all know these characters, I could identify with a lot of the situations. I took it at face value – the Archers in book form.

Greta: The rivalries of small communities ... I found it pertinent and amusing.

Dorothy: There were times I wanted to shake the major, but then he would do something lovely.

Linda: In his friendship with Mrs Ali he was doing something against his background.

Jean: I really liked Mrs Ali, her sense of humour was very gentle, but she dared to tease him.

Pam: Yes, she was a rebel too, often the tone made you forget that she was making a serious point.

Eilleen: Some parts reminded me of Bend it Like Beckham.

Linda: You end up with your own prejudices, I found myself getting so irritated with certain groups of people.

Sandra: The relationship the major had with his son and Mrs Ali’s nephew was interesting by its difference. I think there was more in his moral values in common with Waheed than his own son, Roger.

Karin: Roger was a Thatcher brat.

Eilleen: Do we think it’s just a woman’s read?

Val: My husband enjoyed it, he liked the possibility of romance and also the old- fashioned values.

Sandra: I did wonder how, as a major, he’d lead a troop in the army, he didn’t strike me as a leader of men.

Eilleen: But he really took control in the end when Waheed needed him.

The Book Group meets at The Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells. If you would like to join, please contact Rosamund on The next meeting is on Wednesday March 9 and the group is reading The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell.