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?
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... - jeann
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... - 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
Overall, what did you think of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Two adjectives come to mind: charming and quaint. I enjoyed the "tension" in this book between Major Pettigrew and his son and found the descriptive relationships of characters in the" class system" to be quite accurate. My husband was born in... - gracie
Passing objects and values to the next generation
I don't really have any possessions passed on to me from pass generations but certainly have values passed on. I learned good work ethics and to have a good name for myself. My name is my honor. Caring about others was a value passed on from my... - bettyt
Please read before posting
There's no other word to describe this book except "charming". My mother and I never liked to read the same kind of books and this one is finally one I think I could have recommended to her with confidence. I especially liked the author's ability... - janeh
The challenges of parenting an adult child
I think all relationships can be tricky and since your relationship changes when your child becomes an adult it can also be tricky. I agreed with a previous poster that none of the young people in the book seemed to be portrayed in a very... - scknitter
Why does every community have its "outsiders"
I don't know whether I agree if there is something in our natures that predisposes us to be unsure about those who are different than us, but I do think that 'some' people thrive on creating a hierarchy in social situations with themselves at 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).
New York Times - Janet Maslin
As with the polished work of Alexander McCall Smith, there is never a dull moment but never a discordant note either. Still, this book feels fresh despite its conventional blueprint. Its main characters are especially well drawn, and Ms. Simonson makes them as admirable as they are entertaining. They are traditionally built, and that’s not just Mr. McCall Smith’s euphemism. It’s about intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has them all.
Set-in-his-ways retired British officer tentatively courts charming local widow of Pakistani descent…Unexpectedly entertaining, with a stiff-upper-lip hero who transcends stereotype, this good-hearted debut doesn't shy away from modern cultural and religious issues, even though they ultimately prove immaterial.
Starred Review. This irresistibly delightful, thoughtful, and utterly charming and surprising novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro. In fact, it is Simonson's debut. One cannot wait to see what she does next.
Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
Starred Review. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy.
Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge
In the noisy world of today it is a delight to find a novel that dares to assert itself quietly but with the lovely rhythm of Helen Simonson's funny, 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.
Cathleen Schine, author of The New Yorkers and The Love Letter
I love this book. 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. Unsentimental, intelligent, and warm, this endlessly amusing comedy of manners is the best first novel I've read in a long time.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by FrancoiseBH 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by Cynthia Delightful! 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!
Rated of 5
by Louise J Slow Going 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by Camille 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by Valerie F. Lovely A really lovely story, well-written and well-detailed.
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 traditions and the desire to be free. I wanted to show how humor, and some truth, lives in the gaps between our intentions and our actions in this regard.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.
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