Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
In the last week I've read three first novels by three different authors. In order of my preference: The Postmistress was good; The Help was better; but Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, was the best.
Each of these novels is set in different times and different places, but all to some degree deal with prejudice based on ethnic background.
In Helen Simonson's novel, the setting is a present-day English village where 68-year-old Major Pettigrew lives. As the novel opens, he is mourning the death of his only brother when he begins to forge a friendship with the Pakistani woman who runs the little convenience shop. Both are widowed, both are readers, and both feel alienated by the rest of their extended families.
As the story progresses, Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali grow closer and find themselves in situations where their friendship meets with disapproval from everyone. They have to decide whether to conform to the socially acceptable standards of their peers and family members, or ignore the gossip and unkind attitudes and be true to each other.
I'll be waiting impatiently for Ms. Simonson's next book.