Major Ernest Pettigrew lives a quiet life, in a quiet town in England called Edgecombe St. Mary. One morning, he hears the tragic news that his brother dies. His brother’s death sparks a budding relationship with Jasmina Ali, the neighborhood market owner. Although they are brought together by their shared love of literature, and wry sense of humor, the town and their families seem determined to pull them apart as appearances, stereotypes and myopic opinions hover over their friendship.
This book is a wonderful little character study of modern society, although it seems like a story like this could take place in any era. Major Pettigrew and Jasmina Ali face obstacles in this twist of Romeo and Juliet. Their families are deeply opposed to their union, their friends don’t understand and only ruffle the feathers and distress each other. There is much in this book that makes it a fantastic book club pick. Simonson’s writing is witty, its direct, and its funny. The humor is so subtle, but that’s what makes it great. The humor is in the irony of Daisy not realizing how much of an ass she’s being, or in Major Pettigrew’s son, not realizing how patronizing and demanding he is being as he tries to climb the social ladder in Edgecombe St. Mary. It is really characters that make this story, as there isn’t much in the way of plot other than the romance. Jasmina’s family has a whole set of issues, regarding religious and deeply traditional views on marriage, and the role of women. I liked that storyline the best. This book is all about how appearances are deceiving and to not idly cast judgement and assumptions.
There is also a storyline regarding the symbolic reunion of the two Churchill handguns, which were passed down from Major Pettigrew’s father. I was sort of wondering if Major Pettigrew’s sister-in-law, Marjorie, would have a bigger role in the book particularly about the guns. There was such a fuss made about them in the beginning, but that story seemed to dissipate as the romance started to develop.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it.