Friday, October 26, 2012

Meeting of October 22, 2012

This meeting was hosted by Shirley.  Present were Betty, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Jolene, Linda, Michèle et of course Shirley. Shirley had some lovely English cheese, spicy lamb sausage with mint sauce and a wonderful chutney, wine of course, coffee and tea.  And she had a sublime dessert, pots de crème citronée.  The recipe is at the end of this post.

The book discussed this month is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by author Helen Simonson.  Ms. Simonson, originally from England lives in Brooklyn, New York.  This is her first novel.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a story of a retired gentleman, Major Pettigrew and the clash between the traditional and sometimes rigid values and customs of a small English village and the new modern England.  Major Pettigrew, the vicar and his wife, other original residents members of the village golf club and the local manor owner seem to live in the past, shooting parties, restricted membership at the golf club and little connection to the new ethnic Brits who are moving into the village.  The Major's son Roger, his girlfriend and the younger generation have no respect for tradition.  The balance is further upset when Major Pettigrew's friendship with Mrs. Ali, the owner of a local shop and a British born of Pakistani origin grows to a love interest.  He finds himself torn between his traditional values and customs and his growing concern for the disdain his friends and neighbours have for those unlike themselves.

We all enjoyed the book and found it to be a good sumer read. The characters are well-developed, we can picture not only the main characters such as Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali but minor characters such as his neighbour who "steals" some of his plants and participates in the protests against shooting parties, Mrs. Ali's nephew who has decided he must follow the traditions of his Pakistani origins.  Many of the characters are given exaggerated personalities that highlight the perceived negative characteristics of traditional Brits, immigrant families who refuse to moderate their traditions and customs inappropriate to modern day England and younger generations such as Roger, the Major's son who is obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder, exploiting all connections.

We had a discussion about racism.  Core values, cultures, religion and/or life style are so different.  Is it  just racism or a lack of flexibility and knowledge that keep people from understanding and accepting the differences?  We saw the lack of acceptance not only amongst the people of the village but also in the actions of Mrs. Ali's family.

Some thought that the second part of the book lacked structure and felt that some of incidents were not plausible.  However others liked the predictability and that you could telegraph what would happen.  The incidents at the annual golf club gala were easy to predict and Major Pettigrew's paralyzing non-action when Mrs. Ali is humiliated is evident.  He well knows that the actions of his neighbours and friends are inappropriate but he is unable to react appropriately right away.

We all knew that the decision the young couple Abdul and Amina made to live separate lives was wise and we all wondered if Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali's relationship would survive the differences in their culture and the reactions of neighbours and family.

A good choice Jane. Thank you!

Here is the recipe for Shirley's sublime dessert from the book "Three Chefs, the Kitchen Men" by Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons.   A White Cap Madison Press Book. 

Pot de crème citronée avec petits fruits

2 1/4 cups of whipping cream
2/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice

In a medium pot, combine the cream and sugar and bring them to a simmer, stirring  until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins or bowls  and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Garnish with fresh berries, mint and a bit of icing sugar.

It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and is absolutely sublime!  I have made it already for company and it was a big hit. Thanks Shirley. 

1 comment:

  1. I really loved the first half of the book, characters, eye for detail and mood, dry observations of manners, class, taste, etc. However, it seemed that the second half lost that sure touch - events and people became too exaggerated and almost stereotyped. I lost the sense of reality and intimacy in the characters and village.

    Brilliant moments: the early talks about books between the Major and Mrs. Ali; the ironic, offhand remark she makes to him that "You are luck, you Anglo-Saxons have largely broken away from such dependence on family. Each generation feels perfectly free to act alone and you are not afraid." the headstrong blindness of the young couple, Roger and Sandy; the painfully honest scene between the Major and Grace.

    Enjoyable but uneven.



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