This book was a joy to read. You get to know the characters on an intimate level. Some are more likeable than others, but all are rich and fully developed. Most will endear themselves to you.
Major Pettigrew is a gentleman above all else. Perhaps he is formal to a fault. At first he seems stodgy and rigid but as his affection grows for Mrs. Ali, a woman of Pakistani descent and a shopkeeper in town, he becomes more reachable and flexible. Things, once important to him, are no longer front and center. Enduring relationships assume a more major role and reverence for inanimate objects, material wealth and distinctions of class and station in society, recede far into the background. He begins to understand the foolishness and cruelty of some of the rules he has allowed to dictate his manners and behavior, in both private and public social situations.
The author has perfectly captured the formality of the English gentry in their speech and mannerisms, to a “t”, and without flaw, has captured the lovely Mrs. Ali. You can almost hear her distinctive accent when she speaks, and you can feel the power of the family structure and hierarchy, that influence her actions and judgment.
There is no tawdry sex or filthy language which is so refreshing. The relationships feel real, human, touching. I was rooting for different characters to succeed or fail depending on the circumstance. I was really drawn into the story and loved every moment of it.
When Major Pettigrew, recently widowed, answers the door for Mrs. Ali, also a widow, when she arrives to collect his forgotten newspaper payment, the tale begins. There is a gentle, dry kind of humor, and often, the thoughts of the Major will make your mouth curl upward in a smile or, perhaps, purse when the moment is touched by a melancholy memory. Meeting the Major in his wife's house dress, as he prepares to do some housekeeping, is a bittersweet moment for the reader. It is funny but also sad, as you learn he wears it to remind him of his deceased wife. Mrs. Ali, noting his discomfort, immediately enters his home to give him solace when he informs her that he has just heard about his brother's death. From there they embark on a journey that you will travel with them, experiencing their joy, love, pain, discomfort and confusion.
The prose is so beautiful. The sentences are concise and to the point; the language is polite, no words are wasted; but the message is clear, as the book explores family relationships, societal structures and diverse cultures.