Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is special. Every once in a while a
novel comes along that is such a pure delight you do not want to reach the last
page. This is such a novel. Major Pettigrew is a ramrod straight,
stiff upper lip, proper British gentleman. His brother’s death throws him
for a loop and he finds himself being comforted by Jasmina Ali, the local
shopkeeper. Her Pakistani heritage has kept her from being fully accepted
by the local villagers. It is an unlikely alliance. There are all
sorts of turmoil roiling through the story, from a village pageant to
development of the local estate to bitterness over an inherited gun to the
angst of family members. English village life at its best, complete with
the local vicar, the lord of the manor and a full cast of marvelous characters.
It is all great fun.
Summer '11 Reading Group List
“This is the perfect answer for a book group looking for charm, literacy, and humor. The story of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali and their their families in a middle-class English village will delight readers worn to the bone by the many angst-ridden and torturous family novels of today. Simonson offers a contemporary tale, but with a sensibility and sensitivity to the mores of a generation ago. Wonderful reading!”
— Marian Nielsen, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA
March 2010 Indie Next List
“In a comedy of manners that would make Jane Austen proud, a retired general and a widowed Pakistani women meet and court in an out-of-the-way English village. There is wit here, and cleverness, and a host of clear-eyed, stiff-lipped, curmudgeonly joys. Fans of British humor and storytelling must acquire this wryly funny love story.”
— Mark Bradshaw, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition.
When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?
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.
“[A] beautiful little love story, which is told with skill and humor.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling . . . As with the polished work of Alexander McCall Smith, there is never a dull moment. . . . It’s all about intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has them all.”—The New York Times
“Delightful . . . Lots of books try to evoke Jane Austen . . . but Simonson nails the genteel British comedy of manners with elegant aplomb.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Thoroughly charming . . . With her crisp wit and gentle insight, Simonson . . . knows just what delicious disruption romance can introduce to a well-settled life.”—The Washington Post
“There’s more than a bit of Romeo and Juliet here . . . Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali are worthy of our respect, and it is a great pleasure to spend time with them.”—Los Angeles Times
“Marvelous . . . graceful, funny, perceptive, and satisfying.”—The Boston Globe
“A comforting and intelligent debut, a modern-day story of love that takes everyone—grown children, villagers, and the main participants—by surprise, as real love stories tend to do.”—Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge
“[Helen] Simonson invests her grown-up love story with . . . warmth and charm.”—USA Today
“A wise comedy . . . about the unexpected miracle of later-life love . . . The beauty of this engaging book is in the characters.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“With courting curmudgeons, wayward sons, religion, race, and real estate in a petty and picturesque English village, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is surprisingly, wonderfully romantic and fresh . . . the best first novel I’ve read in a long, long time.”—Cathleen Schine, author of The Love Letter
“Endlessly entertaining.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Playful yet affecting . . . If you miss the Jeeves novels of P. G. Wodehouse—and don’t mind having your emotional buttons pushed—Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the book for you.”—Buffalo News
“Irresistibly delightful.”—Library Journal (starred review)