Major Pettigrew arrived in Cornwall a few weeks ago, and we’ve been slowly getting acquainted. Well, his is the sort of story that suits being taken at a gentle pace, with lots of time to contemplate.
Born in India, but now retired to the picturesque English village of Edgcumbe St Mary, he was adjusting to life as a widower. Pottering around the house and garden, maintaining his traditional customs – like a properly made cup of tea and the words of Kipling. He wasn’t a man to show, or even acknowledge his emotions, but he was a man who would always try to do the right thing.
His brother’s sudden death threw him off-balance. And it was just after he received that news that Mrs Ali, proprietor of the village shop, arrived on his doorstep. An intelligent and compassionate woman, she had lost a beloved spouse not so long ago too, and was just the person to understand Major Pettigrew’s distress and help to steady him.
Major Pettigrew discovered that Mrs Ali loved Kipling and poetry too, and a friendship developed that would grow into something rather more.
They made a lovely couple, and it would be a delight to meet and talk with either or both. And their story is lovely, old-fashioned, and very well told.
But of course there were complications. Both families made demands, and many of the villagers while trying to demonstrate just how multi-cultural they were actually demonstrated that they were nothing of the sort.
None of the sub plots were wrong, indeed there were some lovely moments, some wonderful set pieces, and some thought-provoking points were made. They did enrich the story. Major Pettigrew’s ambitious son and Mrs Ali’s devout nephew provided a particularly well drawn study in contrasts. And some storylines were cleverly set up to look as if they were going to go one way, when in fact they were going to go somewhere quite different but entirely right.
Yes, many thing were done very well, but unfortunately some wrong notes were hit and some things were taken a little too far, when they needed the wonderful subtlety of the main storyline.
A strong picture of a village community was clearly painted, but some of the details were just not right. And that was infuriating, because it did distract attention from the very many things that were done perfectly.
I am still very happy though that I met Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali. Two wonderful characters, whose stories have a great deal to say about love, life, family, community and values.
And that made this book well worth reading.