Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Author:Helen Simonson You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry... more », courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.
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 respective 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 her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?« less
It takes great writing to get me, a 36 year old peace loving, American mother of two, to feel completely connected and sympathetic towards a 60 something retired military British man in a small village. This book has that writing! I loved that we were given the Major's unspoken thoughts along with what was allowed past the filter of his stiff upper lip. I expected a charming story and was rewarded with that as well as a healthy dose of truth and inspiration.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand reminded me a bit of the British comedies on PBS and a bit of the Miss Julia books by Ann B. Ross, but with a fantastically sarcastic British "curmudgeon" in place of the often clueless Southern church lady. I know that the Miss Julia books are a bit of a guilty pleasure, and I mean no disrespect in this comparison. Both have colorful settings and casts of characters that sucked me in and slightly preposterous plots that snowball to fantastic conclusions.
Major Pettigrew is living a quiet retirement in the English countryside until his developing relationship with a local Pakistani widow, the town busybodies planning the local golf club's annual to-do, his only son's ruthless drive to succeed, and a dispute with his recently deceased brother's widow over a family heirloom, all converge to make his life more complicated.
Helen Simonson has written a terrific first novel and I look forward to seeing what she writes next, whether it features Major Pettigrew or not.
This book was not what I expected. I think the concept was great, but the author tried to address too many topics and issues. The clash of generations. The clash of old school versus "progress." The clash of cultures. The clash of traditions. A love story. Another love story where love conflicts with self. Parts of the book read like a piece set in Victorian England except that the setting was present day. I think any one of those issues fully pursued would have made an even stronger book. I read it because I thought that the main issue was that of cultural diversity and the conflict it sometimes causes. And it was, but it was sometimes a little lost amongst all the other issues. Also, some of the "cultural" point of views presented were very stereotypical. I enjoyed reading it, but again, it was not really what I expected. I look forward to hearing my book club's comments on it.