I came upon this very interesting audiobook on my library’s website. I thought it interesting because this is a romance, a mature romance between two people who are both beyond 50. We do have a South-Asian-Brit character here – and that adds to the interest, but the book is about Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), a widower of 68, living alone in his home “Rose Cottage” in the small village of Edgecomb St. Mary.
The Major is very British, as in stiff upper lip and all that. He believes in old-world courtesies, gentlemanliness and decorum. He is often appalled by the new-age dandy that his son Roger seems to have become. He also shies away from the perpetually-altruistic band of village ladies, but finds himself enlivened by the company of one Jasmina Ali, the 50-something widowed shopkeeper of the village store. Mrs. Ali appears to return the interest, but cultural and societal baggage (pun intended) gets in the way of their nascent friendship.
This is a lovely, gentle, graceful book. It is a romance, with a lot of other flavors added in – the pull and tug of familial relationships, the onerous burden of keeping up traditions which make no sense anymore, the courage required to fight the internal and external battle, although battle might be too strong a term here. Simonson has the skill of a seasoned writer, she draws you in and keeps you enthralled. Her prose is descriptive and lively, and laced with wit and humor. Her characters are wonderful, and drawn with much affection. We feel that affection for the Major and Mrs. Ali too, and really, what better proof of a writer’s skill than that?
I must also give credit to the narrator – there is no one who could have read this book better. Altschuler’s voice is perfect for the major’s character and brings through his personality. The Major is often sarcastic, and Altschuler’s narration superbly underscores the emotion from which it springs. It is true that the Major is Simonson’s creation, but the affection I feel for the old codger is at least somewhat due to Altschuler’s gorgeous portrayal of him.
This is a must-read/listen.