A story about a 68-year-old retired British Major and a 58-year-old Pakistani shopkeeper does not, on the surface, seem like it would be an enjoyable read. You would be wrong. This delightful book was a great read for this holiday week. Reading this story was like taking a leisurely stroll in your favorite park or savoring that last bit of your favorite meal. It definitely was not to be rushed. For a super-fast reader like myself with very little patience to spare - this was initially a tough book for me to settle down and enjoy. Once I did, though - it was fantastically worth it.
Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali are drawn together by loneliness and literature (Rudyard Kipling) in particular. Each have their own family obligations that keep them at arm's length - but each have an inner strength that compels them forward. Both characters have lost their spouses and hold very particular positions a sleepy English village. As they develop feelings for one another, the small town of gossips begin to impart their subtle prejudices toward the two. This book does a great job of covering multicultural issues, village politics, good manners and family dynamics. The village is such a throwback to the past that I often had to remind myself that it was set in modern day Britain. The Major often fussed about mobile phones, the internet and the general lack of decorum of the young generation (including his son Roger).
The writing-style that Ms. Simonson employs in this debut novel is witty and reminiscent of Austen. If you are interested in a story filled with colorful characters that drink lots of tea, this is the book for you. A fantastic read.