This book is a bit lighter than my usual fare, but I was absolutely charmed by it. If I lived in Edgcumbe-St.-Mary, I think I'd be in love with the major, too. It's the gentle tale of a widowed retired major who is grieving for his recently-deceased brother when friendship blooms with Mrs. Ali, the widow of a Pakistani shopkeeper. Friendship inevitably turns into stronger affection--but what will the members of the club say (let alone the major's son, a broker schmoozing his way up the corporate ladder)? And will the major ever succeed in reuniting a pair of Churchill shooters given to his father by a maharaja and divided between his sons at his death? Much of the novel centers on conflicts between the "older generation" values of the major and the new values of "progress." Mrs. Ali, too, has conflicts with her own beliefs and the traditional Islamic values of her husband's family. But all is not so serious--particulary due to Major Pettigrew's wonderful wit (which often goes over the heads of others) and some delightfully comic scenes.
A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in Scotland during World War I, the story revolves around several patients and physicians, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon. After serving honorably, Sassoon wrote an anti-war statement, which he asked an MP to read in session. His friend and fellow officer Robert Graves, knowing that Sassoon would be facing a court martial, claims the statement was due to battle fatigue and has him sent to Craiglockhaven for treatment. Dr. Rivers's task is to get Sassoon to agree to return to the front. Other patients include the young poet Wilfred Owen and Billy Priot, a young man who can't eat after having been blown into the decomposing body of a German soldier. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war on people and relationahips and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.
I didn't expect to care much for this book as I'm not all that interested in Greek myths and heroes--but what an unexpected surprise! I am so glad that I listened to the recommendation of other LTers and decided to give The Song of Achilles a go. Once I started, it was impossible to put it aside--a rare enough occurence, but rarer still when you already know how the story will end. That can only be attirbuted to Madeline Miller's gift for storytelling. Gone are the sometimes stilted characterizations of the original (due in part, no doubt, to weak translations). While the heroes here remain monumental, they are also complex men whose thoughts and emotions are all too human. While Miller never lets us forget that Achilles himself is the son of a goddess, we also see within him the vulnerability of the human condition.
The familiar story is narrated by Patroclus, Achilles's best loved companion. The son of a king sent into exile for making a tragic but shameful mistake, Patroclus befreinds the admired Achilles at the age of twelve. Miller takes us through their upbringing at the court of Peleus and their training with the centaur Chieron and on through the Trojan War, where both eventually meet their final fates. She fleshes out not only the shadowy character of Patroclus but also Thetis, Achilles's goddess-mother, his father Peleus, Chieron, Odysseus, Menalaus, Briseis, and others; and she even manages to make the exhausting battle scenes thrilling.
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to The Song of Achilles is that it has made me want to reread The Iliad.