Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

by Helen Simonson

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Overview

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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812981223
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/30/2010
Series: Random House Reader's Circle
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 71,759
Product dimensions: 8.26(w) x 11.70(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics and former travel advertising executive, she has lived in America for the last two decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area. This is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

A Novel
By Helen Simonson

Random House Trade Paperbacks

Copyright © 2011 Helen Simonson All right reserved.
ISBN: 9780812981223

Chapter One

Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother’s wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking. On the damp bricks of the path stood Mrs. Ali from the village shop. She gave only the faintest of starts, the merest arch of an eyebrow. A quick rush of embarrassment flooded to the Major’s cheeks and he smoothed helplessly at the lap of his crimson, clematis-covered housecoat with hands that felt like spades.

“Ah,” he said.

“Major?”

“Mrs. Ali?” There was a pause that seemed to expand slowly, like the universe, which, he had just read, was pushing itself apart as it aged. “Senescence,” they had called it in the Sunday paper.

“I came for the newspaper money. The paper boy is sick,” said Mrs. Ali, drawing up her short frame to its greatest height and assuming a brisk tone, so different from the low, accented roundness of her voice when it was quiet in the shop and they could discuss the texture and perfume of the teas she blended specially for him.

“Of course, I’m awfully sorry.” He had forgotten to put the week’s money in an envelope under the outside doormat. He started fumbling for the pockets of his trousers, which were somewhere under the clematis. He felt his eyes watering. His pockets were inaccessible unless he hoisted the hem of the housecoat. “I’m sorry,” he repeated.

“Oh, not to worry,” she said, backing away. “You can drop it in at the shop later—sometime more convenient.” She was already turning away when he was seized with an urgent need to explain.

“My brother died,” he said. She turned back. “My brother died,” he repeated. “I got the call this morning. I didn’t have time.” The dawn chorus had still been chattering in the giant yew against the west wall of his cottage, the sky pink, when the telephone rang. The Major, who had been up early to do his weekly housecleaning, now realized he had been sitting in a daze ever since. He gestured helplessly at his strange outfit and wiped a hand across his face. Quite suddenly his knees felt loose and he could sense the blood leaving his head. He felt his shoulder meet the doorpost unexpectedly and Mrs. Ali, quicker than his eye could follow, was somehow at his side propping him upright.

“I think we’d better get you indoors and sitting down,” she said, her voice soft with concern. “If you will allow me, I will fetch you some water.” Since most of the feeling seemed to have left his extremities, the Major had no choice but to comply. Mrs. Ali guided him across the narrow, uneven stone floor of the hallway and deposited him in the wing chair tucked just inside the door of the bright, book-lined living room. It was his least favorite chair, lumpy cushioned and with a hard ridge of wood at just the wrong place on the back of his head, but he was in no position to complain.

“I found the glass on the draining board,” said Mrs. Ali, presenting him with the thick tumbler in which he soaked his partial bridgework at night. The faint hint of spearmint made him gag. “Are you feeling any better?”

“Yes, much better,” he said, his eyes swimming with tears. “It’s very kind of you.?.?.?.”

“May I prepare you some tea?” Her offer made him feel frail and pitiful.

“Thank you,” he said. Anything to get her out of the room while he recovered some semblance of vigor and got rid of the housecoat.

It was strange, he thought, to listen again to a woman clattering teacups in the kitchen. On the mantelpiece his wife, Nancy, smiled from her photo, her wavy brown hair tousled, and her freckled nose slightly pink with sunburn. They had gone to Dorset in May of that rainy year, probably 1973, and a burst of sunlight had briefly brightened the windy afternoon; long enough for him to capture her, waving like a young girl from the battlements of Corfe Castle. Six years she had been gone. Now Bertie was gone, too. They had left him all alone, the last family member of his generation. He clasped his hands to still a small tremor.

Of course there was Marjorie, his unpleasant sister-in-law; but, like his late parents, he had never fully accepted her. She had loud, ill-formed opinions and a north country accent that scraped the eardrum like a dull razor. He hoped she would not look for any increase in familiarity now. He would ask her for a recent photo and, of course, Bertie’s sporting gun. Their father had made it clear when he divided the pair between his sons that they were to be restored in the event of death, in order to be passed along intact within the family. The Major’s own gun had lain solitary all these years in the double walnut box, a depression in the velvet lining indicating the absence of its mate. Now they would be restored to their full value—around a hundred thousand pounds, he imagined. Not that he would ever dream of selling. For a moment he saw himself quite clearly at the next shoot, perhaps on one of the riverside farms that were always plagued with rabbits, coming up to the invited group, bearing the pair of guns casually broken over his arm.

“Good God, Pettigrew, is that a pair of Churchills?” someone would say—perhaps Lord Dagenham himself, if he was shooting with them that day—and he would casually look, as if he had forgotten, and reply, 
“Yes, matched pair. Rather lovely walnut they used when these were made,” offering them up for inspection and admiration.

A rattling against the doorjamb startled him out of this pleasant interlude. It was Mrs. Ali with a heavy tea tray. She had taken off her green wool coat and draped her paisley shawl around the shoulders of a plain navy dress, worn over narrow black trousers. The Major realized that he had never seen Mrs. Ali without the large, stiff apron she always wore in the shop.

“Let me help you with that.” He began to rise from the chair.

“Oh, I can manage perfectly well,” she said, and brought the tray to the nearby desk, nudging the small stack of leather books aside with one corner. “You must rest. You’re probably in shock.”

“It was unexpected, the telephone ringing so absurdly early. Not even six o’clock, you know. I believe they were all night at the hospital.”

“It was unexpected?”

“Heart attack. Quite massive apparently.” He brushed a hand over his bristled mustache, in thought. “Funny, somehow you expect them to save heart attack victims these days. Always seem to on television.” Mrs. Ali wobbled the spout of the teapot against a cup rim. It made a loud chonk and the Major feared a chip. He recollected (too late) that her husband had also died of a heart attack. It was perhaps eighteen months or two years now. “I’m sorry, that was thoughtless—” She interrupted him with a sympathetic wave of dismissal and continued to pour. “He was a good man, your husband,” he added.

What he remembered most clearly was the large, quiet man’s restraint. Things had not been altogether smooth after Mr. Ali took over old Mrs. Bridge’s village shop. On at least two occasions the Major had seen Mr. Ali, on a crisp spring morning, calmly scraping spray paint from his new plate glass windows. Several times, Major Pettigrew had been in the store when young boys on a dare would stick their enormous ears in the door to yell “Pakis go home!” Mr. Ali would only shake his head and smile while the Major would bluster and stammer apologies. The furor eventually died down. The same small boys slunk into the store at nine o’clock at night when their mothers ran out of milk. The most stubborn of the local working men got tired of driving four miles in the rain to buy their national lottery tickets at an “English” shop. The upper echelons of the village, led by the ladies of the various village committees, compensated for the rudeness of the lower by developing a widely advertised respect for Mr. and Mrs. Ali. The Major had heard many a lady proudly speak of “our dear Pakistani friends at the shop” as proof that Edgecombe St. Mary was a utopia of multicultural understanding.

When Mr. Ali died, everyone had been appropriately upset. The village council, on which the Major sat, had debated a memorial service of some kind, and when that fell through (neither the parish church nor the pub being suitable) they had sent a very large wreath to the funeral home.

“I am sorry I did not have an opportunity to meet your lovely wife,” said Mrs. Ali, handing him a cup.

“Yes, she’s been gone some six years now,” he said. “Funny really, it seems like both an eternity and the blink of an eye all at the same time.”

“It is very dislocating,” she said. Her crisp enunciation, so lacking among many of his village neighbors, struck him with the purity of a well-tuned bell. “Sometimes my husband feels as close to me as you are now, and sometimes I am quite alone in the universe,” she added.

“You have family, of course.”

“Yes, quite an extended family.” He detected a dryness in her tone. “But it is not the same as the infinite bond between a husband and wife.”

“You express it perfectly,” he said. They drank their tea and he felt a sense of wonder that Mrs. Ali, out of the context of her shop and in the strange setting of his own living room, should be revealed as a woman of such great understanding. “About the housecoat,” he said.

“Housecoat?”

“The thing I was wearing.” He nodded to where it now lay in a basket of National Geographics. “It was my wife’s favorite housecleaning attire. Sometimes I, well...”

“I have an old tweed jacket that my husband used to wear,” she said softly. “Sometimes I put it on and take a walk around my garden. And sometimes I put his pipe in my mouth to taste the bitterness of his tobacco.” She flushed a warmer shade and lowered her deep brown eyes to the floor, as if she had said too much. The Major noticed the smoothness of her skin and the strong lines of her face.

“I still have some of my wife’s clothes, too,” said the Major. “After six years, I don’t know if they still smell of her perfume or whether I just imagine it.” He wanted to tell her how he sometimes opened the closet door to thrust his face against the nubby suits and the smooth chiffon blouses. Mrs. Ali looked up at him and behind her heavy-lidded eyes he thought she too might be thinking of such absurd things.

“Are you ready for more tea?” she asked and held out her hand for his cup.

When Mrs. Ali had left, she making her excuses for having invited herself into his home and he making his apologies for inconveniencing her with his dizzy spell, the Major donned his housecoat once more and went back to the small scullery beyond the kitchen to finish cleaning his gun. He was conscious of tightness around his head and a slight burn in the throat. This was the dull ache of grief in the real world; more dyspepsia than passion.

He had left a small china cup of mineral oil warming on its candle stand. He dipped his fingers in the hot oil and began to rub it slowly into the burled walnut root of the gun stock. The wood became silk under his fingertips. He relaxed into his task and felt his grief ease, making room for the tiniest flowering of a new curiosity.

Mrs. Ali was, he half suspected, an educated woman, a person of culture. Nancy had been such a rare person, too, fond of her books and of little chamber concerts in village churches. But she had left him alone to endure the blunt tweedy concerns of the other women of their acquaintance. Women who talked horses and raffles at the hunt ball and who delighted in clucking over which unreliable young mother from the council cottages had messed up arrangements for this week’s play group at the Village Hall. Mrs. Ali was more like Nancy. She was a butterfly to their scuffle of pigeons. He acknowledged a notion that he might wish to see Mrs. Ali again outside of the shop, and wondered whether this might be proof that he was not as ossified as his sixty-eight years, and the limited opportunities of village life, might suggest.

Bolstered by the thought, he felt that he was up to the task of phoning his son, Roger, in London. He wiped his fingertips on a soft yellow rag and peered with concentration at the innumerable chrome buttons and LED displays of the cordless phone, a present from Roger. Its speed dial and voice activation capabilities were, Roger said, useful for the elderly. Major Pettigrew disagreed on both its ease of use and the designation of himself as old. It was frustratingly common that children were no sooner gone from the nest and established in their own homes, in Roger’s case a gleaming black-and-brass-decorated penthouse in a high-rise that blighted the Thames near Putney, than they began to infantilize their own parents and wish them dead, or at least in assisted living. It was all very Greek, the Major thought. With an oily finger, he managed to depress the button marked “1—Roger Pettigrew, VP, Chelsea Equity Partners,” which Roger had filled in with large, childlike print. Roger’s private equity firm occupied two floors in a tall glass office tower in London’s Docklands; as the phone rang with a metallic ticking sound, the Major imagined Roger in his unpleasantly sterile cubicle with the battery of computer monitors and the heap of files for which some very expensive architect had not bothered to provide drawers.

Roger had already heard.

“Jemima has taken on the call-making. The girl’s hysterical, but there she is, calling everyone and his dog.”

“It helps to keep busy,” suggested the Major.

“More like wallowing in the whole bereaved-daughter role, if you ask me,” said Roger. “It’s a bit off, but then they’ve always been that way, haven’t they?” His voice was muffled and the Major assumed this meant he was once again eating at his desk.

“That’s unnecessary, Roger,” he said firmly. Really, his son was becoming as unedited as Marjorie’s family. The city was full of blunt, arrogant young men these days and Roger, approaching thirty, showed few signs of evolving past their influence.

“Sorry, Dad. I’m very sorry about Uncle Bertie.” There was a pause. “I’ll always remember when I had chicken pox and he came over with that model plane kit. He stayed all day helping me glue all those tiny bits of balsa together.”

“As I recall you broke it against the window the next day, after you’d been warned against flying it indoors.”

“Yeah, and you used it as kindling for the kitchen stove.”

“It was broken to pieces. No sense in wasting it.” The memory was quite familiar to them both. The same story came up over and over at family parties. Sometimes it was told as a joke and they all laughed. Sometimes it was a cautionary lecture to Jemima’s willful son. Today the hint of reproach was showing along the seams.

“Will you come down the night before?” asked the Major.

“No, I’ll take the train. But listen, Dad, don’t wait for me. It’s possible I might get stuck.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Continues...


Excerpted from Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson Copyright © 2011 by Helen Simonson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1.

In the outset of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the Major is described as feeling the weight of his age, but on page 320, the morning after his romantic evening with Mrs. Ali at Colonel Preston’s Lodge,  Simonson writes that “a pleasant glow, deep in his gut, was all that remained of a night that seemed to have burned away the years from his back.” Love is not only for the young and, as it did the Major, it has the capacity to revitalize. Discuss the agelessness of love, and how it can transform us at any point in our lives.  

2. A crucial theme of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is that of obligation. What are the differences between the Pettigrews’ familial expectations and those of the Alis’?  What do different characters in the novel have to sacrifice in order to stay true to these obligations? What do they give up in diverging from them?

3. Major Pettigrew clings to the civility of a bygone era, and his discussions with Mrs. Ali over tea are a narrative engine of the book and play a central role in their burgeoning romance. In our digital world, how have interpersonal relationships changed? Do you think instant communication makes us more or less in touch with the people around us?

4. Much of the novel focuses on the notion of “otherness.” Who is considered an outsider in Edgecombe St. Mary? How are the various village outsiders treated differently?

5. First impressions in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand can be deceiving. Discuss the progressions of the characters you feel changed the most from the beginning of the book to the end.  

6. The Major struggles to find footing in his relationship with his adult son, Roger. Discuss the trickiness of being a parent to an adult child, and alternatively, an adult child to an aging parent. How does the generation gap come to impact the relationship?

7. Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali connect emotionally in part because they share the experience of having lost a spouse, and in part because they delight in love having come around a second time. How do you think relationships formed in grief are different from those that are not?

8. For Major Pettigrew, the Churchills represent societal standing and achievement, as well as an important part of his family’s history. However, as events unfold, the Major begins to question whether loyalty and honor are more important than material objects and social status. Discuss the evolving importance of the guns to the Major, as well as the challenge of passing down important objects, and values, to younger generations.
 
 

Interviews

Finding Major Pettigrew and myself

Dear Barnes and Noble Readers,

I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to walk into a Barnes and Noble and see my novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, stacked on the shelves. I have had a few months to absorb this dream - but to be honest, I still have to pinch myself sometimes. This is my first novel and its initial success was greatly helped by being picked for the Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers program and being recommended by B&N booksellers throughout the country. I am very grateful to them all.

As I try to juggle book touring and interviews with my regular job (as a mother of two teenage boys), I am often asked how the novel came to be. I can only report that the smallest of inspirations - a desire to write something just for my own pleasure and a fleeting image of home - led me to a small brick house in an English village and a retired Major opening the door to a stranger. The Major was wearing a lady’s floral housecoat and this rather surprised his visitor, Mrs. Ali, an Englishwoman of Pakistani heritage, who owned the village shop.

From small beginnings, the story that unfolded was as much a surprise to me as it is to other readers. I just enjoyed spending hours in the landscape of Sussex, which I remember so well, and I tried to let my characters lead me. I was very often thrilled with where they went next. I remember laughing out loud when it became suddenly clear that the local village squire had dreadful plans in store for the Major’s village.

I am very happy that the novel turned out to be funny. It took me many years, and many attempts at stories, to give up trying to squash my natural sense of the absurd. When I finally gave up trying to be bleak and serious, and stopped worrying what people would think of my writing, something sparked in my work – and the Major appeared at his door, dressed for action.

Several years ago, as a stay-at-home mother, looking for some creative, intellectual outlet, I stumbled into a ‘Beginner Fiction’ class at New York’s 92nd Street Y with only the vaguest idea that I wanted to write. After diapers and toddler gym classes all week, I was thrilled to spend one night sitting around a conference table, sharing work with others (adults!) who thought they wanted to write. I could only work on my class assignments after eight pm when the children were asleep and before nine thirty when I was usually overtaken by my own exhaustion. Almost immediately I realized I was where I wanted to be.

My overnight success as a writer took a little longer. My toddlers are now applying to college!

In the intervening years I experienced all kinds of rejection – but took comfort in the fact that rejection letters addressed me as “Dear Writer.” I can only advise those who want to write to do it for you, do it with your own voice and find some other writers with whom to share the agonies! And, of course, every writer needs to read a lot of books. I hope you like the paperback version of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand as much as everyone who worked on it. See you at Barnes and Noble!

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 723 reviews.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
What a fabulous book! I fell in love with Major Pettigrew from the start. He is so gentle and dryly humorous, willing to own his faults, humble and yet completely fallible and human. When he falls in love with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper in their small English village, he does it wholeheartedly. Yet their relatives and neighbors disapprove and they have to fight racism, ignorance, and censure to stay together. The author, Helen Simonson, does a great job of addressing nasty issues with a light and gentle hand. The Major struggles with what his beliefs confronting religion, environmentalism, and racism with his wisdom and humor. The plot is fast-paced and interesting making this a real page turner with a surprising twist at the end. A fun, heartwarming book that nevertheless examines some serious social issues.
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
An older, distinguished gentlemen expanding his friendship with a mature lady friend in the English countrywide, is a beautiful unconventional love story, wry and witty, frequently hilarious. GREAT HUMAN SPIRIT AND FEEL GOOD READ! I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Helen Simonson's 'Major Pettigrew's Last Stand' is a novel of love and grief and family and relationships. And while the fact that the major characters are fifty plus may be beside the point, it is nevertheless refreshing to see that the aged and aging may have real lives. Widower Major Ernest Pettigrew, veteran of Her Majesty's Service and stanch upholder of all things British, is attracted to Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani matron who runs the village shop. No reader will be surprised that the members of the Major's golf club aren't impressed by his choice nor is Jasmina's family pleased that she has a British suitor. Ernest is expected to marry the local spinster (after a little not too genteel nudging by the ladies circle) and Jasmina's in-laws are expecting her to relinquish her shop to her nephew and 'retire' to the safety and servitude of family obligation. However, this is less a story of plot than character. And Simonson does an excellent job of rendering each of her characters - from the upright and moral major and his sometimes greedy and consistently unsure son Roger with his flip yet sympathetic American girlfriend to the lovely and wise Jasmina and her serious, scholarly, and equally greedy and unsure nephew Abdul - with great depth and flair. Five Stars: Recommended for all readers who want to be reminded of the cost and power of love and who want to smile as they close the book at the end.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Edgecombe St. Mary, sexagenarian English Widower Major Ernest Pettigrew grieves the death of his younger brother, Bertie. As a memento of growing up together, Ernest wants Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun, which is part of a set in which he owns the other piece. However, his sibling's wife Marjorie refuses to give it to him. Meanwhile Ernest's son Roger salivates over selling the Churchill collection. Ernest is attracted to Pakistani shopkeeper Widow Jasmina Ali who he buys his tea from and enjoys discussing literature especially Kipling with her. He wants to court the single mom though Roger interferes as does the village socialites; each has their own reason while her nephew Abdul Wahid demands she give him the shop as women should not be storekeepers by themselves. However the major plans to ask the shopkeeper to accompany him to the dance at the club unaware of the volatile theme. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a great contemporary English village romance with a very modern day theme of two subcultures clashing when a person from each group falls in love with someone from the other side, a Romeo and Juliet taboo. The story line is character driven by the strong lead couple who has feelings that is unacceptable by their families and friends. Jocular and poignant, Helen Simonson writes a relevant tale of forbidden love even for middle aged military veterans who risks his place in the village by taking a last stand for what he wants. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Helen Simonson writing is delightful. Her characters were interesting all the way through the book. It certainly makes the reader think of his or her prejudices. It is not a combination of cultures that is usually written about. There were parts that were funny too. I have recommended this to anyone who likes a pleasant book to read and am loaning my copy to friends. I was sort of sad when it ended because the main characters had become comfortable. Perhaps it won't be his last stand after all and we will hear more?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand updates the English countryside novel with multi-cultural characters, and she transcends the genre with their complexity. Simonson's writing is sharp in its criticism of narrow-mindedness, but her affection for her characters--even the very flawed ones--is obvious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do Not start this book unless you want to spend the night reading, I couldn't put the book down. A Awesome Debut Novel!!!
Luv2Read27 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book all the way up to the last several pages. It didn't end with a nice bow around it, which is a usual requirement of mine. But after thinking more, it ended in the spirit of the book - life isn't perfect. Although the main story line is about unforbidden love, preconceptions and judgment, the subtext that resonated for me is about family - how neither parents or children are perfect in each others eyes. It was beautifully written in an English proper way, the prose beautiful and full of aha moments.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a charming story about a developing love and passion that happens between a couple over the age of 50. Despite the wisdom of their years, they still find their blossoming romance interferred with by meddlesome family and the conventions of society. It was nice to read a love story for a change about an older couple--a pleasant reminder that love can happen at any age and is not reserved only for twenty-somethings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I simply love this book. I can't say that "I couldn't put it down." The pace was so breathtaking, I could only read in small doses--the thrill and anxiety of falling in love were wonderfully expressed. After reading the 'ugly American' review, I was a little afraid of being disappointed. But there were so MANY interesting themes in the book, it was much more than a vehicle for ugly American stereotypes. The characters navigate so many real challenges--modern vs traditional values, religious differences, racial and cultural differences, gender differences, and economic class differences. Nothing about this book felt stereotypical or insulting to me. Overall, I would highly recommend this book.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
Major Pettigrew is having a difficult time. His brother just died, the gun he has always expected to inherit has gone to someone else, and he's at his wit's end with his self-centered son. The local store owner Mrs. Ali is having a difficult time herself. She is viewed in her Pakistani culture as having reached an age when she needs to hand things over to the next generation to carry on, and this isn't something about which she is very happy. This was a charming story. It wasn't an exciting story or an especially challenging story, but it was quaint and charming. Most of the main characters were very likable, and people I would actually like to know in real life. Major Pettigrew can be a bit surly at times, but I happen to like that about him. Mrs. Ali is warm and thoughtful, and carries herself with great poise. Grace is the sweetest and most forgiving of women. The Major’s son Roger is a grown spoiled brat, snobbish and quite a bit self-centered and inconsiderate. Sandy is a strong and independent American woman whom the Major's son brings home, and initially grating to a proper Englishman, she has a softness that eventually wins over the Major. The Major and Mrs. Ali find themselves in a similar position. Mrs. Ali finds she is expected by her culture to give her life over to the next generation (in her case, this being her nephew), while the Major is similarly expected by his son to do the same and hand over what is precious to him. This story showcases the underpinnings of a small village, the bigotry that can exist anywhere, and the difficulties of the older generation who are viewed as being at the end of their lives. However it also shows how pure love can be when experienced at an advanced age. Another undercurrent in the book is the racism and classism that exists in Britain and many places around the world. Major Pettigrew, the son of a British soldier, was born in Lahore, Pakistan. Mrs. Ali is of Pakistani descent, yet was born in Britain. However it is Mrs. Ali that is viewed as the foreigner and looked down upon, while Major Pettigrew is a respected man of class and wealth. My final word: A charming story with charming characters. This wasn't a book that I loved, but one that I did like quite well.
DianePT More than 1 year ago
The Major is an old-fashioned principled man, a pinch self-righteous. His strong values bump into today's society. He manages to find relationships where he would have never dared to tread in the past. He (and those around him) discover love and acceptance. Charmingly set in England, with an appreciation for a good cup of tea, it tackles love, prejudice, and the generation gap with good humor and a genteel manner. I was charmed by this book!
BookReviewsByMolly More than 1 year ago
Another new-to-me author and one that I truly recommend! Helen Simonson writes this debut novel with a seasoned author's skill. Her characters are complex and witty and her plot is full of beautiful British charm. Major Pettigrew's character quickly stole my heart. His sweet wit and loving charm as he grew to accept his late-in-life changes, really drew me in. His growing feelings for widowed Mrs. Ali was fun to watch. Their affection for each other through out this story, despite their cultural differences and village gossip, was wonderful to witness. Ms. Simonson's debut is one that will charm any book lover. It instantly captures you and takes you on a whirlwind ride of fun British quirkiness, and will set you down, unexpectedly, amongst your charming new friends! This is definitely a 4 star novel, worthy of recommendation. Major Pettigrew's character will leave you smiling and glad that you took the time to get to know him and Mrs. Ali, and all the wonderful characters of this interesting love story! I look forward to many more books like this from this very talented new author and I am sure you will, too!
Manhattan136 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story, and finished it quite quickly. The characters are rich and interesting. There is a dry underlying humor that keeps you engaged. Major Pettigrew is a classic gentleman with an attractive old-school wittiness. The ending was a little predictable, resembling an ending one may expect from a hollywood film. But it is nice and refreshing and uncomplicated.
JoDE71 More than 1 year ago
From the first paragraph I was hooked. It is a gentle story of a retired British Major. He is so aware of doing things properly, never offending anyone and not putting himself forward. It is engaging, funny, entertaining but most of all a gentle commentary on life. It was recommended to me by my sister and I am so glad I listened and read it. Sit back with a pot of tea and just enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very touching, provocative story written beautifully. There is also quite a bit of hilarity and if you enjoy this part you should also read Last Summer at the Club by Geri and Ed Muir. It's wonderful!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was a very easy read and absolutely loved the story line. I couldn't put the book down, I just wanted to read it till the end.
cupcake19 More than 1 year ago
halfway thru this book, i found myself putting it down after reading a few chapters just savor the story! the major's keen wit, mrs. ali's little gems on life, their love found late in life in spite of drama from family/neighbors along w/life in an small, english village ("warts & all") made for just a lovely, charming story that left me wanting more. helen simonson hit one out of the park w/her first book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story for exactly what it is, however the choice of reader (in this case, the author) can greatly enhance or diminish the overall feel of a book. A professional reader with a good director would would have made this a better recording.
beachspirit More than 1 year ago
What a delightful book. I felt that Mr. Pettigrew had such a calming effect when dealing with circumstances. Such a different "read". I know this is Helen Simonson's first novel, and I wrote to her telling her I so hoped she is working on another one to be published soon.
Anonymous 8 months ago
i+loved+this+book%21+The+characters+were+well+developed+and+you+truly+cared+what+happened+to+them.+i+also+enjoyed+the+othet+book+this+author+wrote..the+summer+before+the+war+i+would+recommend+reading+both+of+these+books%21
Anonymous 10 months ago
I loved reading this book. Major Pettigrew is a retired army man and lives in a "typical" small English village. We meet many of the town's characters, but especially Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow, who the Major develops a friendship with. His wife died several years ago and so as the story develops, does their love for each other. Of course, the road to love has several roadblocks including the Major's son, Roger and the narrow-mindedness of people from different backgrounds. Helen Simonson brings today's awareness of life amid a changing world to a small village. Yes, we can look beyond people as they appear and see human life in its richness and complexities with humor. This is a Must Read.
nfmgirl2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Major Pettigrew is having a difficult time. His brother just died, the gun he has always expected to inherit has gone to someone else, and he's at his wit's end with his self-centered son. The local store owner Mrs. Ali is having a difficult time herself. She is viewed in her Pakistani culture as having reached an age when she needs to hand things over to the next generation to carry on, and this isn't something about which she is very happy.This was a charming story. It wasn't an exciting story or an especially challenging story, but it was quaint and charming.Most of the main characters were very likable, and people I would actually like to know in real life. Major Pettigrew can be a bit surly at times, but I happen to like that about him. Mrs. Ali is warm and thoughtful, and carries herself with great poise. Grace is the sweetest and most forgiving of women. The Major¿s son Roger is a grown spoiled brat, snobbish and quite a bit self-centered and inconsiderate. Sandy is a strong and independent American woman whom the Major's son brings home, and initially grating to a proper Englishman, she has a softness that eventually wins over the Major.The Major and Mrs. Ali find themselves in a similar position. Mrs. Ali finds she is expected by her culture to give her life over to the next generation (in her case, this being her nephew), while the Major is similarly expected by his son to do the same and hand over what is precious to him.This story showcases the underpinnings of a small village, the bigotry that can exist anywhere, and the difficulties of the older generation who are viewed as being at the end of their lives. However it also shows how pure love can be when experienced at an advanced age. Another undercurrent in the book is the racism and classism that exists in Britain and many places around the world. Major Pettigrew, the son of a British soldier, was born in Lahore, Pakistan. Mrs. Ali is of Pakistani descent, yet was born in Britain. However it is Mrs. Ali that is viewed as the foreigner and looked down upon, while Major Pettigrew is a respected man of class and wealth.My final word: A charming story with charming characters. This wasn't a book that I loved, but one that I did like quite well.
janismack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like this book. It was so sweet and oh so british. The writting had a good flow and the characters were interesting and charming. There are always a few bad apples in the bunch but the author dealt with them in a resonalble and satisfactory way.
alana_leigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is, without a doubt, the most charming book that I've read all year. Thought-provoking without being pushy, softly complex without being overwhelming. Helen Simonson's delightful novel focuses on a quiet English country village and the complications that result when both small and large changes start to creep in. Edgecombe St. Mary is comprised of named cottages, a Lordly estate, a members-only club, and a reluctance to change how life has been lived for years... so it's a particularly interesting turn of events when one of the members of the community who would be least likely to endorse change winds up involved with a number of minor signs of progress that feel like enormous issues for everyone else. Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) is a widower and leads a fairly quiet life where the big event of his week might be a round of golf. While he was born in India (his father, also an army man, was stationed there), Major Pettigrew has lived in Edgecombe St. Mary for most of his life and his family is well-respected in the village. He puts a great deal of stock in both personal and family honor, though that being said, his only family now consists of his son (a London high-flier that his father can hardly relate to) and a small handful of extended relations (his younger brother's family). At the opening of the novel, Major Pettigrew has just received a call alerting him that his younger brother has died of a heart attack, so the Major isn't quite thinking straight when he answers the doorbell, dressed only in his dead wife's tattered housecoat. At the door is Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani woman who runs the village shop where locals can purchase small odds and ends between visits to larger shops in the nearby town. Having only intended to fetch the newspaper money on behalf of the ill paper boy, Mrs. Ali becomes the Major's unlikely caretaker that morning when she assumes charge of the light-headed fellow.Once given this opportunity to sit and converse, they discover that they share a large number of things in common, including a love of reading, and the Major finds that staging casual run-ins with Mrs. Ali in the weeks that follow is topping his priority list. Well, at least it vies for the top spot with retrieving a family heirloom from his brother's widow (an old and valuable hunting rifle, one of a pair that the two brothers were given by their father on his deathbed, with the intention to reunite them one day). At the funeral for his brother, the Major's son turns up, engaged to an amazon-like American, and giving more than a hint that if they were to sell the two valuable guns now (aka cash in on the son's presumed inheritance early), they'd make a killing. Disappointed in his son's lack of reverence for the guns (that have meant perhaps too much to the Major himself), he stubbornly attempts to forge through with his own hope of simply reuniting them, not fully processing what the other gun must have symbolized to his younger brother (whose family is under the impression was always a bit slighted in favor of the elder). The major struggles to hold on to the things he has cared for in the past, yet they seem to slip away as he spies a very new love growing in his heart and the question of how much the past matters in favor of the future is a question never absolutely stated but certainly implied. So how much can he keep with the old traditions while embracing new opportunities at living his life? Even if the Major is rather old-fashioned by modern standards and is often bemoaning the manners of the young, Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali find themselves becoming town gossip... and not in any kind of charitable way. Aside from the obvious mixed-race-couple issues, there's also the fact that she's a shopkeeper (working class, you know) and her dead husband's Pakistani family expect that she'll give up her shop to the newly-arrived nephew. As a result, she'd be absorbed by the husband's