Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (copy)

The cover art attracted me first. Not that it was out of the ordinary, many of us have seen clothing draped over a coatrack, but this art is unusual. Two wool coats, one male and one female, facing each other with a fedora towering over a red felt hat that seems to be resting in the crook of the larger overcoat’s lapel. The shading in the artwork gives the appearance of two lovers standing outdoors on a breezy sunny day.

Obviously, the cover screams romance, but then the title gives it an air of respectability. “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson sounds military in nature and one has to wonder why the male coat is civilian and not dress uniform. I praise the publishers on their choice of artwork.

Ernest Pettigrew is a retired British Army Major living a quiet life in Sussex, England near the sea. Behind his house is the rolling meadows of Lord Dagenham’s estate. In his small neighborhood he is surrounded by ivy covered homes with lush green gardens where rabbits and hedge hogs play.

One block to the west, visitors to the neighborhood become a little unnerved. After seeing the flowers in bloom, they face bright orange signs that anchor the turn declaring, “ATM HERE!” and “Lotto!” The brightness of the convenience store jars even the mildest manner of man.

A sunny Sunday morning and Major Pettigrew finds himself face to face with the owner of that quickie mart. He opens his door to find Mrs. Ali staring at him impatiently. She is there to pick up money owed for newspapers having gone a whole month without the payment. Her distasteful face suddenly turns to a smile as she realizes Major Pettigrew, a man known for his impeccable taste in clothes, stares back at her in a pink robe with bright red roses climbing his trunk.

Pettigrew grows lightheaded not sure if it was his brisk walk to open the door or the embarrassment of having been caught in his late wife’s favorite robe. Mrs. Ali suddenly finds she is shoring him on the door frame as his face losses all color. With the moves of a trained EMT, she turns and walks him down the hall to his favorite chair.

Mrs. Ali leaves him to start the kettle for tea when the Major announces he lost his younger brother this morning.

Get comfy with some tea yourself; this read is well worth the time.