Winner of BookBrowse's 2010 Best Debut Award
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, 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?
Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brothers 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 Majors cheeks and he smoothed helplessly at the lap of his crimson, clematis-covered housecoat with hands that felt like spades.
Ah, he said.
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...
Some of the recent comments posted about Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.
Are relationships formed in grief different?
I imagine that having a relationship with someone who has also gone through the trauma of grieving would be a strong connection. If the grief is new, it might be such a relief to have someone who really understands, that it would be enough at first. ... - jeann
Casting Major Pettigrew, The Movie
I immediately saw Barry Fitzgerald as the Major - but he's long gone. Michael Caine might work, but he seems too handsome! - terryd
First impressions can be deceiving!
Ok, Marys and Davina, I agree 100% with your insights. I was trying to put my finger on why I liked this book so much, and I think you hit the nail on the head. The characters weren't instantly likable or even knowable - - and I thought that made ... - againstthetide
How to balance obligation and personal freedom?
It is often hard to distinguish between societal imposed obligations and the ones we impose on ourselves. The important distinction is between the good or the pain that will result and to whom. Often one's family expectations result from things just ... - phyllisr
Is love ageless?
Love is absolutely ageless, just as all other human emotions are. Perhaps it's the fault of Hollywood or romantic literature that we think love can only happen to the young, which is why I think MPLS is such a wonderful novel. It speaks to the ... - SarahD451
Helen Simonson crafts an enchanting tale, brilliant in its simple yet profound insight into human nature - a light and crisp perfection. Her characters etch themselves into your head and heart, lingering long after the last page has been savored... This autumn-of-life love story - messy, funny, complicated and filled with the promise of possibility no matter what your age - is not to be missed. And like all good things, including fresh fruit tarts, the memory of enjoying it will make you smile whenever it comes to mind.
(Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).
Full Review (1239 words).
Helen Simonson shares some thoughts on her writing, her life and Major Pettigrew in an interview with our reviewer, BJ Nathan Hegedus:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand offers an enlightening view of the divide between provincial and cosmopolitan, traditional and contemporary. What made you want to write about this? Was there a Major Pettigrew or Mrs. Ali in your childhood village?
Major Pettigrew may look, at first, to be the very image of the tradition-bound, English man who would live in a village like mine. Yet I wanted to show that none of us is our own stereotype not even the English! The Major is an individual and he reflects the struggle we all face between daily life and ethics, between cherished ...
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