Arti's Reviews > Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
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's review
Aug 24, 2011

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Read from August 05 to 23, 2011

As I read this book, I couldn't help but think whether writing about clashes between minority culture and mainstream society should best be written by members of that particular cultural group. Only someone who has gone through the immigrant experience, who adheres to the religion and tradition in that background can best represent themselves in voicing the conflicts, incompatibilities, struggles, and humour, both from their point of view looking at themselves, and looking out towards society as a whole. For me as a reader, without such an authentic voice, the characters could easily be stock and one dimensional. As I found in this book.

As Atticus said to Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." No pun intended here, but literally so true. That is why I've appreciated writings from authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Aravind Adiga, Khaled Hosseini... Of course, here Simonson has done an admirable job, but I feel she's tiptoeing through sensitive subjects of cultural differences, so she has to exaggerate the silliness and trivialities of her own, and create a heroine in Mrs. Ali to patronize the other. I know, the nature of this book is not a cultural treatise, so in that sense, it is an effective and amusing farce and rom-com. But if one has to pursue the moot point of how real a character Mrs. Ali is, I'd have to say she's more an ideal type created from the Western cultural point of view.


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