Thursday Book Feature: British Novel Highlights Racial Prejudice


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
Copyright 2010.

In a modern-day English countryside village, Major Pettigrew, a retired widower, after losing his younger brother, develops a friendship with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow who runs a local grocery store. As they become more serious about each other, they involve themselves in the affairs of their village and families amid others’ disapproval of their relationship. The major must also contend with his son, with whom he doesn’t always see eye to eye.

The Audible version I downloaded was read by an excellent British narrator who transported me to this enchanting English village with its rolling hills, thatched cottages, and believable characters. Because of his narration, I found myself laughing at people’s antics from time to time. However, the book’s theme is not funny. It’s maddening that even today, people look down on those who are not of our race. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book and hope to read more by this author.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Thursday Book Feature: The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War

by Helen Simonson

Copyright 2016

In 1914, Beatrice, a spinster, arrives in an English country village to teach Latin at a grammar school. Although some citizens are skeptical about a female Latin teacher, she is able to make a few friends. Then World War I breaks out, and everyone, including Beatrice, is caught up in the effort to support the troops.

This book has several sub-plots that bring out the injustices of English society during that time. Soon after war breaks out, a group of refugees from Belgium arrives in the village. When one girl is found pregnant, the residents arrange to send her away. When Beatrice tries to help her, she is shunned. In the grammar school where she teaches, a gypsy boy who is bright with a serious interest in learning is not allowed to take a scholarship exam because of his family’s heritage. As a result of the war, lives and limbs are lost, and the book’s ending is happy and sad.

Despite the seriousness of the war and closed-mindedness of certain characters, parts of this book made me laugh. The sadness caused by loss of life as a result of the war moved me nearly to tears. The Summer Before the War made me thankful to be living in today’s world with modern medicine and more liberal views, even though some people still look down on minorities and those less fortunate than ourselves.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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