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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen…
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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (edition 2010)

by Helen Simonson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2593711,164 (3.97)659
Member:storytime930
Title:Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Authors:Helen Simonson
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2010), Paperback
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction, British, romance, racism, relationships, village life

Work details

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

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» See also 659 mentions

English (372)  Catalan (2)  French (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  English (380)
Showing 1-5 of 372 (next | show all)
Very charming although parts of it made me squirmy. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
“Only sometimes when we pick and choose among the rules we discover later that we have set aside something precious in the process.

“Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” opens with the eponymous character, having just heard that his brother has died, opens his door whilst wearing his deceased wife's housecoat to find an exotic woman, Mrs Ali who he loosely knows as the local shopkeeper, and breaking all his normally rigid conventions makes a confession to her. Like the Major Mrs Ali is alone after losing her husband and so a friendship and then gentle love affair is kindled based initially on a love of books.

Set in a rural English village, which very doubtfully exists any more, populated with a whole ensemble of motley characters with their petty prejudices that rather fits all the expected stereotypes as well as grasping outsiders this is a charming love story with genteel comic undertones. The village shop is in the hands of a family of Pakistani origin. The local estate might be turned into a housing development. And the false, money-driven values of greedy young financiers are at loggerheads with the concerns and beliefs of an older, less selfish generation. Inter-generation and family tensions abound. Although maybe a little far-fetched in its scope Simonson manages to keep it credible throughout and it is not only the English that she parodies but visiting Americans as well. All in all this seems to be a writer clearly having fun with her characters and all are well written. In particular the Major and his brash, materialistic son.

However, the real pleasure of this book derives not from its village conventions but from its beautiful little love story. Rural England is not always a welcoming place for those perceived as outsiders. For the Major and Mrs Ali to succeed they must stand up to the prejudices of both the English community and also the pressures of Pakistani family life. Mrs. Ali is torn between her family and the the broader, liberal society that Britain holds on offer.

That love can overcome cultural barriers is hardly a new theme, but it’s presented here with great sensitivity and delicacy. We take the two main characters to heart willing them to succeed and to find romance.

No doubt this novel is mainly aimed at the beach/ airport side of the book where something warming and light is required it also contains a powerful moral message into the interstices of village politics. The overly dramatic ending was not IMHO required and as such lost the novel full marks.Overall it is a very worthy début novel that deserves to be widely read. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Nov 10, 2016 |
There are flaws, but I'm giving it five stars anyway because I just enjoyed reading it so much. And I loved Major Pettigrew. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
I read Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War before I read her debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and had a similar reaction to both books. It took me a while to get into the stories, but once I did, I loved them. Simonson reveals her characters slowly. They not only grow throughout the book, but their true natures come out at a pace that causes the reader's perception of them to change. Either type of change is just as real.

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand we are presented with a pompous, retired soldier, who demonstrates a shallow nature when his brother, Bertie, dies. Pettigrew focuses his concern on the acquisition of a gun he wants reunited with his own Churchill rifle. He wants to create a pair he can show off to his upper class, hunting buddies. But as his friendship with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow, strengthens, the quality of his morality and empathy begins to show.

Although the relationship between Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali is at the core of the story, there are a number of other subplots, which all keep the pages turning. Major Pettigrew has a son, Roger, who is aggressive in his real estate career, while the Major is someone who wants things to remain the same as long as possible. There's a subplot involving the rifles and a disagreement with Bertie's widow about what should be done with this valuable inheritance. And Mrs. Ali is also at the center of a story about her relationship with her late husband's family. The result is a complex plot with plenty of important choices the characters must act on. It's a hard book to put down.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest ( )
  SteveLindahl | Oct 20, 2016 |
While the plot did, eventually & circuitously, liven up towards the end of the book I found this to be a very slow read with very little interest. However, I do believe it quite captured the small town/village mentality "heard 'round the world" so to speak. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 372 (next | show all)
Simonson .. is having a great time with her first novel. She is unsparing in her willingness to send up her characters and their little village, and she is often downright funny – that intelligent kind of funny that catches readers by surprise and makes them re-read a sentence several times to figure out how the author managed to make them laugh out loud so unexpectedly.The book is almost always pitch-perfect in its demonstration of how ridiculous our small ignorances can be – and how magnificent we are when we rise above them.
 
This thoroughly charming novel wraps Old World sensibility around a story of multicultural conflict involving two widowed people who assume they're done with love. The result is a smart romantic comedy about decency and good manners in a world threatened by men's hair gel, herbal tea and latent racism..When depicted by the right storyteller, the thrill of falling in love is funnier and sweeter at 60 than at 16. The stakes are higher, after all, and the lovers have stored up decades of peculiarities and anxieties
 
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.
 

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Simonsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Altschuler, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tapia, SoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallis, BillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother's wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.
Quotations
He finished his tea and rose from the table to go to his room. "But I must ask you, do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?" "My dear boy," said the Major. "Is there really any other kind?"
"Careful, careful," he said, feeling a splash of scalding tea on his wrist. "Passion is all very well, but it wouldn't do to spill the tea."
Too few people today appreciate and pursue the delights of civilized culture for their own sake.
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Book description
Major Ernest Pettigrew, having retired to a quiet life in Edgecombe St. Mary, raises a few eyebrows in the small English village when he begins a relationship with widow Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper.
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Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until 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 will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?… (more)

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