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excellent first novel
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the first novel of British-born American author, Helen Simonson. Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) lives in the charming English village of Edgecombe St Mary. Some six years after the death of his wife Nancy, it takes the events surrounding the sudden death of his younger brother, Bertie, to bring Mrs Jasmina Ali, the owner of the village shop, to his notice. As unlikely as it may seem, he finds he has a lot in common with this gentle woman of Pakistani descent. Simonson creates the feel of the rural English village with consummate ease, from the Lord of the Manor desperately trying to keep up his estate to the Golf Club with its exclusive membership to the well-meaning Ladies led by the vicar’s wife. Simonson’s characters are easily recognisable: the self-indulgent adult offspring with their focus on money; the hopeful spinster trying to be noticed by the last eligible male; the young Asian woman trying to escape the oppressive family; the professional Asian couple ingratiating themselves with the British Upper Class; and, of course, the stiff British Major who turns out to be terribly human, and therefore eminently likeable. Yet the characters have depth and the fact that all of the characters have some redeeming feature makes them all the more realistic: none is totally good or totally bad. Simonson touches on inheritance, the divide between the generations, loneliness, mortality, the fate of Manor houses, the mingling of cultures, housing estate development and stewardship of the land. She manages to include: an annual Golf Club dance; a duck shoot; Kipling; at attack with a knitting needle; a set of matched hunting rifles; a suicide attempt and a dramatic cliff-top climax. Favourite quotes: “This was the dull ache of grief in the real world; more dyspepsia than passion.” “’The world is full of small ignorances,’ said a quiet voice. Mrs Ali appeared at his elbow and gave the young woman a stern look. ‘We must do our best to ignore them and thereby keep then small, don’t you think?’” and “ ‘I think everyone has the right to be shown respect,’ she said. ‘Ah, well, there you go.’ He shook his head. ‘Young people are always demanding respect instead of trying to earn it. In my day, respect was something to strive for. Something to be given, not taken.’ “ This is a brilliant first novel and I look forward to more from Helen Simonson.
Mostly delighted, slightly over-charmed...
A few weeks ago, I was very much influenced in reading this book after having enjoyed so much the most delectable comments mostly from PaulaK and from many others from the Book Club section about it being a most feel good reading which was just what I needed at that point!
I mostly enjoyed it and it did make me feel good most of the time, it also annoyed me a little sometimes, unfortunately…
Despite its feel good overall quality, this book also deals with serious matters almost in a shallow way, to my own slight dissatisfaction, I must admit to; I enjoyed the superior quality of the writing, the subtle wit, the British ironic humor, the endearing characters…
I was also gnawed by the unpleasant sensation of being overly “charmed” right thru the end with its superfluous unrealistic climax!
This was a truly fun book to read. Set in a staid English village, it's about discarding preconceptions and becoming open to what really matters in life. Read and enjoy!
Wow, this is a really hard book for me to review because I’m not quite sure I enjoyed it all that much. It was very hard to get through as it’s long-winded in detail which I find very mundane. The meeting of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali in their late 60’s and 50’s, respectively, was a nice touch. We don’t often think of people of that age finding new love interests and it shows that no matter how old we are, we all need some form of love. I’ll leave my comments at that.
Major Pettigrew's Triumph!
Loved the characters in this book - they were charming, evolving, and ever-changing because of their circumstances. I kept thinking of what the characters would look like in person and if a movie was made, who would play the Major (maybe Michael Caine?). From someone who had a very rigid opinion on everything from women drivers to what kind of food to serve at a party, Major P. becomes more lovable and more precious with each chapter. I think everyone would love to live in a village with him as their neighbor or have him as their grandfather. Loved it! Couldn't put it down!
A really lovely story, well-written and well-detailed.
a real treat to be savored
A delightful surprise from beginning to end. The major is an unlikely yet supremely endearing hero. I can't count the times I wanted to write down his witty and spot on quips. Each sentence brings so much feeling and depth. The author wasted no words to bring this novel to life. Simply amazing and wonderful. This was our January 2011 book club selection and what a way to greet the new year! Thank you Ms Simonson for this gem. I have to search long and hard for a read-alike such as this book.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Such a great book, not an extremely deep one but great all the same. Major Pettigrew would make a wonderful series for PBS. I think most of us know or have in our family an upright opinionated older gentlemen who reminds us of this character, at least I do. Wonderful character development and very readable writing style. Definitely want to read more from this author.