The fictional story of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson was an easy read about a widowed English gentleman (Major Pettigrew), his rather snobby son (Roger), and a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper (Mrs. Ali). There are several story lines in the book - Major Pettigrew is trying to get his recently deceased brother's firearm from his sister-in-law; Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali begin to have feelings for each other, which causes lots of turned up noses and questions due to her nationality; Roger and his girlfriend have a very different relationship than what Major Pettigrew believes is appropriate. The plot takes several comical twists & turns that made this an enjoyable read.
I have to admit that I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book because of the content, basically the life of a Japanese prostitute. However, I found Memoirs of a Geisha to be extremely well-written and very interesting reading. The story follows a young girl from a small fishing village through her life with its many twists and turns as she becomes the well-known geisha of a wealthy businessman. I was a little disappointed in the ending to the book (you'll have to read it for yourself), however I understand that this book was based on the experience of a real-life geisha . . . and often real life does not turn out like we expect from the foreshadowing in a book.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks produced some very interesting and controversial book club discussion at our meeting last month. This is a non-fiction book about how cancerous cells that were taken from a poor black women in the early 1950s have been used in research for the past 60+ years. Henrietta Lacks did not know that her cells were being taken and used in research when she went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, and she never knew, because she died in 1951. Her cells, however, are still alive today and have been used in research that resulted in development of the polio vaccine and many other medical advances. The controversy lies in the fact that she nor her family were aware of the cells for many years, even as they grew into a multi-billion dollar industry. The Lacks family (including Henrietta's five children) continued to live in poverty, without health insurance, while her cells (known as HeLa) were sold for research around the world. The book goes back and forth between two stories - the story of the cells and the story of the Lacks family. I was fascinated with the information presented; the book was well researched, although I was occasionally frustrated with the author's style of inserting herself into the Lacks' story.
If you've read any of these books, please share your opinions in the comments. If not, are there any that you'll be adding to your to-read list?