Title: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Author: Helen Simonson
Pages: 384 (2012 total – 5,833)
Approx. Word Count: 115,200 (2012 total – 1,620,614)
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Publisher: Random House
Categories: general fiction
Source: personal copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Back of the book:
In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
There was something quite charming about this book. Major Pettigrew appears to be a sweet old man on the surface, but beneath he’s quite opinionated, and more than a little dismayed at some of the changes in his life. His brother has passed away, his son appears ready to dispel with the family estate, and the pastoral view behind his home is in danger of disappearing. The sometimes-shy-sometimes-bold Mrs. Ali (an also-widowed foreigner) seems to be a perfect match for him, but others in his staunchly conservative traditional countryside town have different ideas.
This book has a lot to say about family, race, religion, age, and tolerance. The young in the story have much to learn from the old, and vice versa. The English countryside setting is relaxing, despite being a little stressful for its inhabitants. The concept of manor homes and Lords and family estates is a bit foreign to most of us in the U.S., but I think that’s part of what lends the setting its charm.
I really liked Major Pettigrew. He’s old-fashioned, yet forward thinking. Gentle, yet cranky. Intelligent, yet frighteningly obtuse at times. He really is the star of the story, and not just because his name’s on the cover.
I wouldn’t call this an exciting read, but it was certainly a good one. It was unanimously liked in my book club, and that’s not easy to find.
- “I could hardly bear to put it down and frequently found myself itching with anticipation in the moments I wasn’t reading it.” — Caroline Bookbinder
- “This is a quiet book, at first, and its tone, combined with very strong, very realistic characters, reminds me of Ann Tyler’s Digging to America.“ — The Book Shark
- “Written with an absorbingly dry and witty sense of humor, the kind that’s hard to find nowadays, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand keeps us chuckling throughout.” — Life Wordsmith
2011: The Woman He Married (Julie N. Ford)
2010: Black Seconds (Karin Fossum)
2009: An Ice Cold Grave (Charlaine Harris)
2008: Whitewash (Alex Kava)
2007: Op-Center (Tom Clancy)
2006: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
2005: Blue Gold (Clive Cussler)