Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812981223, 384pp.)
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
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In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, 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 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 regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
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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.
- In the outset of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the Major is described as feeling the weight of his age, but on page 320, the morning after his romantic evening with Mrs. Ali at Colonel Preston’s Lodge, Simonson writes that “a pleasant glow, deep in his gut, was all that remained of a night that seemed to have burned away the years from his back.” Love is not only for the young and, as it did the Major, it has the capacity to revitalize. Discuss the agelessness of love, and how it can transform us at any point in our lives.
“[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)