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 |

4.1875 out of 5 rating. 16 Reviews
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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, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: November 30, 2010

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 038566866X

ISBN - 13: 9780385668668

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– More About This Product –

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel

by Helen Simonson

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 384 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 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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