Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Written by Helen Simonson
Read by Peter Altschuler
Published by Random House Audio on March 2, 2010
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, British, Romance
13 hours, 358 pages
Three Word Review: Cute, Humorous, Heartfelt
Major Pettigrew lives in a small village in the English country. He’s now in his early sixties, yet his morals and principles have remained the same. Major Pettigrew’s younger brother just died and he now feels at a lost. The death sparks a new friendship with Mrs. Ali, the older Pakistani shopkeeper. The friendship begins simple with tea and book discussions. Soon Major Pettigrew feels a strong attachment to Mrs. Ali. The small town is filled with humorous characters who think it’s their right to know everybody’s business. Some of the town citizens don’t view Mrs. Ali as Major Pettigrew and only see her as a ‘ethnic diversity’ and ‘low status’ as a shopkeeper. Both Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew have personal conflicts in their lives, yet these problems almost pull them together more. Can their relationship survive in difficult situations?
I thought Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was cute with a fairly simple plot, but it was still enjoyable. You feel for Major Pettigrew as nothing seems to go right for him. Sure this book is romantic but it’s not an overly gushing romance. I think this is because the entire story is from Major Pettigrew’s perspective and his feelings for Mrs. Ali slowly develop. It’s refreshing to read about a relationship that begins completely wholesome as a simple friendship and moves to something more. I listened to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and it was quite enjoyable. It had a ‘British’ voice without being too dramatic. If you enjoy small town humor and a non-gushy romance then you may like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
Written by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Translated from German by Kevin Wiliarty
Published January 31, 2012 by Other Press
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Cultural, Romance
Three Word Review: Dry, Anticlimactic, Slow
If you cannot notice by my word review, I didn’t really enjoy The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. Julia Win’s father disappears and a possible clue is the discovery of a unmailed love letter written decades earlier by her father, Tin Win. The address is in Burma, so Julia leaves New York in search of her father. She meets an elderly man, U Ba, who claims he knows Tin Win’s past and his deep love for Mi Mi. The story is mainly told through his eyes as Julia learns about a passionate side of her father that she wasn’t aware of. Tin Win and Mi Mi depend upon each other and have a special intimate bond. I won’t spoil the beating heartbeats message.
I didn’t enjoy The Art of Hearing Heartbeats for several reasons. I thought the story had great potential with a passionate love in another country. In my opinion, it lacked character depth and never really reached a climax. U Ba’s narrative was dry and at times I was glad I wasn’t Julia trying to stay awake listening. I felt the book left me hanging and ended suddenly. There were ‘ah’ moments between Tin Win and Mi Mi and I’m sure many would enjoy this book, but it lacked too many elements for me.
13, rue Thérèse
Written by Elena Mauli Shapiro
Published by Little, Brown and Company on February 2, 2011
Genre/ Topics: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Time Travel, France
I have never read such a unique book. Trevor Stratton is an American professor who teaches in Paris. He discovers a box that contains a mixture of objects, such as letters, photos, gloves, and even a scarf. The owner of the box and objects is Louise Brunet who lives in Paris, through both world wars. It is somewhat a mystery how the objects connect and fully describe her life. Trevor keeps the box a secret and attempts to understand Louise better. Some things he’s able to piece together from the objects is that Louise had a love for a cousin, a marriage to a dependable man, and a passionate attraction to her neighbor. However, Stratton almost sets his imagination free and fills in the empty spots to create her full life. What made this book so unique is that there are actual photographs of each object. It felt as though I discovered the objects with Trevor. 13, rue Thérèse refers to the building where she lives. The book reminded me slightly of The Time Traveller’s Wife, because the book moves past to present and the reader gets both Trevor’s and Louise’s viewpoint.
The author actually found these items in a box that belonged to a real Louise Brunt. However, that is where the similarities differ because the Louise in the book is completely fictionally. In the back of the book, the reader is able to scan QR codes to discover more information and details about the objects. At times I was confused while reading the book, but the reader should just go with it. I love books that contain letters and illustrations, so this was quite an enjoyable book.
Water for Elephants
Written by Sara Gruen
Published January 1, 2006 by Algonquin Books
Genre: Fiction, 336 pages
Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski who gives his viewpoint as a young twenty-something year old and a ninety-something year old. He describes his experience being with the Benzini Brothers Circus in the Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Jacob is an orphan veterinary student who turns to the circus by accident. It’s the Great Depression and Jacob has nothing after a devastating car crash that left both parents dead, so he jumps upon a moving train to discover that it’s a traveling circus. Jacob meets many memorable individuals including Marlena who performs an equestrian act. Jacob falls madly in love with Marlena, yet she’s already married to a man with an evil streak. The circus seems to be going downhill, until Rosie the elephant arrives to hopefully create the next big circus act. However, Rosie doesn’t follow commands and frustrates some people who handle the situation poorly. Jacob forms a close bond with Rosie and treats her with care. Terrible incidents occur on the circus and the older Jacob doesn’t share these stories with anyone. The book moves from the past to the present as Jacob finally shares his tales. I thought Water for Elephants was an enjoyable book, but it felt rushed near the end. There were romantic aspects, since there is a growing love between Jacob and Marlena but I wouldn’t describe it as ‘chick lit’. The book highlights aspects during the Great Depression, such as the prohibition and being jobless with no hope. Throughout the book, the reader views real photographs taken from circus life mainly with the Ringling Brothers.
Water for Elephants
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated: PG-13 (some violence, sensuality)
Release Date: April 22, 2011
Running Time: 2 hours
I actually watched the film before reading the book. The film closely matched the book. The film didn’t show the older Jacob as much as the book. There is a strong connection between Robert Pattinson as Jacob and Reese Witherspoon as Marlena. You won’t find any ‘vampire-like’ views of Robert Pattinson. There are some violent scenes with cruel animal acts and strong sensuality between Pattinson and Witherspoon. The film felt rushed as it provided information about Jacob’s life after the circus. If you enjoyed the book, you won’t be disappointed with the movie.
The Blind Contessa’s New Machine
by Carey Wallace
Historical Fiction, 207 pages
The book took place during the nineteenth century in Italy. Contessa Carolina Fantoni was going blind, yet nobody believed not even her fiancé. The only believer was her friend, Pellegrino Turri who also turned into her lover. Turri was ten years older and married himself, yet they sneaked away to the lake house where Carolina spent so much time in her youth. Her husband basically held her captive and locked the house, because he was in fear that she wouldn’t be able to handle the outside world being blind. Turri proclaimed that he loved her and begged to run away together. Carolina attempted to write a letter, but it was a disaster because the ink spilled and she couldn’t write straight. Turri invented a typewriter for her to write letters. She was now able to freely write to family and secret messages to Turri. The story events were true, since Pellegrino Turri was often accredited for inventing the first working typewriter and carbon paper. Unfortunately, not much was known about the typewriter but some of Carolina’s letters written on the typewriter survived.
The Blind Contessa’s New Machine was interesting, because there were no chapters and it seemed almost like a whimsical tale. Books need a problem or conflict, but this book really didn’t have anything besides the fact that she was blind and had a lover. I think the only reason I finished the book was because it was so easy and fast.
Brief Information about Pellegrino Turri
Carbon Copy History
The Last Letter from Your Lover
by Jojo Moyes
Fiction, 416 pages
In 1960, Jennifer Stirling awakes from a terrible car crash and doesn’t remember who she is. Nobody tells her exactly what happened and wants her to begin again with cocktail parties that she hosts with her husband. Jennifer searches for clues about who she was and stumbles upon passionate letters asking her to leave her husband. But she has no clue who this mystery person is, since the letters are only signed ‘B’.
It is now 2003, Ellie, a journalist, discovers the lost letters in the achieves. She desires to uncover whether ‘B’ and ‘J’ eventually meet and if she really did leave her husband. Ellie’s own love life is complex as she’s dating a married man and wants more from the relationship, but realizes that it may never happen. Ellie struggles to save her career with these letters and connects to her own life.
The book really does feel like two separate books, since there are drastic differences with the time periods and even the writing itself read differently. I wouldn’t call this book ‘chick lit’, but it does have romantic aspects. I couldn’t stop reading, since I wanted to know what happened. The Last Letter from Your Lover was a fast book with a bit of mystery, romance, missed chances, and forbidden love.
I’ll be at Platform 4 Paddington at 7:15 on Monday evening, and there is nothing in the world that would make me happier than if you found the courage to come with me. I’ll be waiting on the platform from a quarter to seven. Know that you hold my heart, my hopes, in your hands.