Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel

by Helen Simonson

Doubleday Canada | November 30, 2010 | Trade Paperback

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel is rated 4.1875 out of 5 by 16.
Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew''s Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition.

When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 384 pages, 8 × 5.37 × 0.9 in

Published: November 30, 2010

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 038566866X

ISBN - 13: 9780385668668

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Light read The ups and downs of Major Pettigrew's romance in a tightly knit(wit) very English village changes everyone's attitudes about strangers.
Date published: 2013-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Helen Simonson is a master of satire. This book is funny, but in the clever-you-must-work-for-it British kind of way, not the look-at-me-I-Love-Lucy American kind of way. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the first novel for Simonson, who was born and raised in England. She paints a picture of life in the charming British village of Edgecombe St. Mary. Her main character is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), a Pakistani-born Englishman who develops a relationship with an English-born Pakistani woman. These two characters both embrace and rebel against their cultural heritages and family obligations. Major Pettigrew requires propriety in all things, even brewing tea or borrowing books. He thinks ”Major” should be used like a first name, and he refers to the woman who is his love interest as “Mrs. Ali” up until . . .well, until it’s really not appropriate anymore. Mrs. Ali struggles to find a place for feminine independence in her patriarchal family system. Simonson draws her characters well. You will recognize unpleasant characteristics you know to be true of people in your own life. You will squirm when you recognize unpleasant characteristics you know to be true about yourself. The publishers describe the book as a love story, but it is more about facing change. Both characters must grope around in their lives to discover which parts to keep as part of a solid foundation and which parts to gouge out as flimsy with dry rot. This book is a charming, pleasant read, especially if you like satire. If you don’t appreciate the subtleties of satire, it will be a tougher sell.
Date published: 2012-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from like visiting a quaint English village Helen Simonson’s debut novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the next best thing to spending a holiday in the English countryside. When we meet the title character, Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), he’s just received the news that his younger brother, Bertie, has died. He’s trying, rather unsuccessfully, to cope with the news when Mrs. Ali, proprietress of the local village shop, appears at his door to collect the paper money. She takes note of his unsteady appearance and offers to make him a cup of tea. Thus begins their relationship. " Mrs. Ali was, he half suspected, an educated woman, a person of culture. Nancy had been such a rare person, too, fond of her books and of little chamber concerts in village churches. But she had left him alone to endure the blunt tweedy concerns of the other women of their acquaintance. Women who talked horses and raffles at the hunt hall and who delighted in clucking over which unreliable young mother from the council cottages had messed up arrangements for this week’s play group at the Village Hall. Mrs. Ali was more like Nancy. She was a butterfly to their scuffle of pigeons. He acknowledged a notion that he might wish to see Mrs. Ali again outside of the shop, and wondered whether this might be proof that he was not as ossified as his sixty-eight years, and the limited opportunities of village life, might suggest." Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is one of those little gems of a novel – beautifully written, with characters so remarkably authentic they seem to jump off the page. Pettigrew is a widower and Mrs. Ali, too, has lost a spouse. They are drawn together because of a shared love of Kipling, but they live in a small town – everysmalltown, really, where everyone knows your name and your business – and not everyone would have them together. Although Mrs. Ali was born in England, she’s Pakistani and therefore viewed by some as ‘unsuitable.’ I think Pettigrew’s feelings for her take him quite by surprise. I suspect he thought that at 68, that part of his life was over. In some ways, Pettigrew is a stuffed shirt. He likes things ‘just so.’ He desires attention and often believes he’s entitled. The beautiful thing about him, though, is his willingness to change, and he does, too. His relationship with his son, a pompous banker who lives in London, undergoes a transformation. He starts to care less about tangible things, like a pair of shotguns that had once belonged to his father, and more about feelings and people. To say that nothing much happens in Simonson’s novel is to miss the quiet patina of daily life – much of which, at least as it’s written here, is laugh out loud funny. As people plan parties that can only go awry, as children squabble over their rightful inheritance, as the battle-lines are drawn between cultures, Major Pettigrew tries to find a way to navigate the messy business of living. He is proof that life does offer second chances, if we are brave enough to open our hearts to receive them.
Date published: 2012-02-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Major Pettigrew's Last Stand I found this book had a hard time deciding what type of story it wanted to be. It is a love story, a story about racism, a story about the contempt of youth towards elders, a story about crazy Aunties, and then at the end it is a gun shooting action story. Major Pettigrew is a real life character with lots of faults and lots of pluses which is refreshing and his love interest Mrs. Ali is almost as real, but a bit more stereotypical of an Indian women who is not Indian in the way Caucasians like to think. Overall a fun light read about old people finding love again in their lives. I do like the underlying theme of racism and how it is presented in the book, that is how racism is often not overt, but is there in all the little underlying ways we treat people...made me think.
Date published: 2011-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Charming! This is an absolutely delightful book, well written and so witty that I found myself laughing out loud, yet with a look at serious issues of prejudice. Both "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" and "The Help" came to mind while reading it. I look forward to another offering by Helen Simonson.
Date published: 2011-09-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 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 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.
Date published: 2011-04-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A charming story Major Pettigrew is a proper English gentleman, a retired serviceman and a widower who in the twilight of his life falls in love with a local village shopkeeper who is also widowed and just happens to be of Indian decent. While this novel wasn't as complex as I expected and hoped for, it made up for it in charm. It's a light, easy read on what could be a heavy subject. Recommended.
Date published: 2011-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightful I can't believe this is the author's first novel - I hope she writes many more as good as this one. It's heart-warming, funny and clever - a really good read.
Date published: 2011-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delighfully different This was a feel good book. Love can come at any age in the most of unusual circumstances. The theme is the same but the characters are something else. You'll fall in love with the Major and Mrs. Ali.
Date published: 2011-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Read - Don't Miss It! This is such a wonderful, charming , insightful read that I feel like shouting to everyone that I know - READ THIS BOOK. This is a wonderful story that takes place in a small British Village, with all of the class systems that supposedly exist in British villages. The widower, Major Pettigrew, as he prefers to be known, finds himself unexpectedly falling in love with the Pakistani shopkeeper, the widowed Mrs. Ali. This is most improper and he fights the feeling. But Mrs Ali proves to be much more complex than she initially appears. We learn about both the Pakistani class system, as well as the British system. It is charming to see older people , such as Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew fall in love. There are many subplots and they add much depth to the story. This book in no way compares to the books I have read by Alexander McCall Smith - it is far superiour! This book examines class systems, is so well written and very droll. There is a depth and psychological insight into the various characters and socialogical changes that make this much more than a light weight novel. Add to this a wonderful tale of love, humour, intelligence and backbone - - and you've got Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. This is definitely one of my favourite books this year! I look forward to more novels by Helen Simonson
Date published: 2011-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too bad it had to end... Smart, charming, witty and at times laugh out loud funny! What a wonderful read. The characters are well developed, the writing beautiful and the story line keeps you turning pages. Treat yourself to this little gem, you won't regret it. I have been very impressed by the debut novels that have come out in 2010 and this was no exception.
Date published: 2011-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Most Charming, Droll, Insightful Read - Do Not Miss This One! This is such a wonderful, charming , insightful read that I feel like shouting to everyone that I know - READ THIS BOOK. This is a wonderful story that takes place in a small British Village, with all of the class systems that supposedly exist in British villages. The widower, Major Pettigrew, as he prefers to be known, finds himself unexpectedly falling in love with the Pakistani shopkeeper, the widowed Mrs. Ali. This is most improper and he fights the feeling. But Mrs Ali proves to be much more complex than she initially appears. We learn about both the Pakistani class system, as well as the British system. It is charming to see older people , such as Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew fall in love. There are many subplots and they add much depth to the story. This book in no way compares to the books I have read by Alexander McCall Smith - it is far superiour! This book examines class systems, is so well written and very droll. There is a depth and psychological insight into the various characters and socialogical changes that make this much more than a light weight novel. Add to this a wonderful tale of love, humour, intelligence and backbone - - and you've got Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. This is definitely one of my favourite books this year! I look forward to more novels by Helen Simonson
Date published: 2010-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Great Book! This was a most enjoyable book! In a small town in England, retired Major Pettigrew begins to feel fondly for the widowed shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali. He struggles to communicate his feelings while dealing with a conservative group of friends, a tiresome son, and Mrs. Ali's unusual nephew. I found this book to be very well written - the language was just so enjoyable to read. The story itself was a bit complicated at times but, unlike some books, it had a very satisfying ending.
Date published: 2010-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful!!! I am about 2/3 of the way through this book, reading just a little at a time as I do not want it to ever end: it's a treat I give myself at the end of the day. Incredible to think that this is Helen Simonson's first novel. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for her next one.
Date published: 2010-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Last Stand is a great start Retired Major Ernest Pettigrew is the very model of an old fashioned English gentleman, and a widower of six years. Following a chance encounter, he finds himself falling in love with also-widowed Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani lady who owns a small shop in their pretty Sussex village, much to the frequently unsubtle dismay of most of his friends and her relatives. Beautifully written, moving and deeply romantic – though not at all in a bodice-ripping, romance novel way – and often extremely funny, this wonderfully entertaining book disappoints only by ending too soon. Helen Simonson’s debut as a novelist might be the major’s last stand, but you’ll be hoping for many more from her.
Date published: 2010-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous! Lovely, well written characters who just invite you into their lives and make you wish the book would never end. Try this if you loved The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, or if you're just looking for great fiction that doesn't have to do with murder, war, or horrible things happening to people!
Date published: 2010-04-23

– More About This Product –

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel

by Helen Simonson

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 384 pages, 8 × 5.37 × 0.9 in

Published: November 30, 2010

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 038566866X

ISBN - 13: 9780385668668

Read from the Book

Chapter 1 Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother''s 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 Major''s cheeks and he smoothed helplessly at the lap of his crimson, clematis-covered housecoat with hands that felt like spades. "Ah," he said. "Major?" "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 they discussed the texture and perfume of the teas she blended specially for him. "Of course, I''m awfully sorry." He had forgotten to put the week''s money in an envelope under the outside doormat. He started fumbling for the pockets of his trousers, which were somewhere under the clematis. He felt his eyes watering. His pockets were inaccessible unless he hoisted the hem of the housecoat. "I''m sorry," he repeated. "Oh, not to worry," she said, backing away. "You can drop it in at the shop later - sometime more convenient." She was already turning away when he was seized with an urgent need to explain. "My
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From the Publisher

Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew''s Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition.

When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

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 is currently living with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C. area. This is her first novel.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

"The real pleasure of this book derives… from its beautiful little love story, which is told with skill and humor… That love can overcome cultural barriers is no new theme, but it is presented here with great sensitivity and delicacy… As for happy endings, [the book] deserves all available prizes." — Alexander McCall Smith, 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 but never a discordant note either… [the book''s] main characters are especially well drawn, and Ms. Simonson makes them as admirable as they are entertaining… It''s all about intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone. Major Pettigrew''s Last Stand has them all." — Janet Maslin, The New York Times "When depicted by the right storyteller, the thrill of falling in love is funnier and sweeter at 60 than at 16… With her crisp wit and gentle insight, Simonson is still far from her golden years… but somehow in her first novel she already knows just what delicious disruption romance can introduce to a well-settled life." — Ron Charles, The Washington Post "The beauty of this engaging book is in the characters, particularly Mrs. Ali… Elegant, refined, and full of grace, she is also shockingly, adorably straightforward… a sweet story about the unexpected miracle of later-life love." — Sara Nelson, O! Oprah Magaz
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Bookclub Guide

1. In the outset of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the Major is described as feeling the weight of his age, but 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.

2. A crucial theme of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is that of obligation. What are the differences between the Pettigrews’ familial expectations and those of the Alis’? What do different characters in the novel have to sacrifice in order to stay true to these obligations? What do they give up in diverging from them?

3. Major Pettigrew clings to the civility of a bygone era, and his discussions with Mrs. Ali over tea are a narrative engine of the book and play a central role in their burgeoning romance. In our digital world, how have interpersonal relationships changed? Do you think instant communication makes us more or less in touch with the people around us?

4. Much of the novel focuses on the notion of “otherness.” Who is considered an outsider in Edgecombe St. Mary? How are the various village outsiders treated differently?

5. First impressions in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand can be deceiving. Discuss the progressions of the characters you feel changed the most from the beginning of the book to the end.

6. The Major struggles to find footing in his relationship with his adult son, Roger. Discuss the trickiness of being a parent to an adult child, and alternatively, an adult child to an aging parent. How does the generation gap come to impact the relationship?

7. Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali connect emotionally in part because they share the experience of having lost a spouse, and in part because they delight in love having come around a second time. How do you think relationships formed in grief are different from those that are not?

8. For Major Pettigrew, the Churchills represent societal standing and achievement, as well as an important part of his family’s history. However, as events unfold, the Major begins to question whether loyalty and honor are more important than material objects and social status. Discuss the evolving importance of the guns to the Major, as well as the challenge of passing down important objects, and values, to younger generations.

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