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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Hardcover – March 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010: In her witty and wise debut novel, newcomer Helen Simonson introduces the unforgettable character of the widower Major Ernest Pettigrew.  The Major epitomizes the Englishman with the "stiff upper lip," who clings to traditional values and has tried (in vain) to pass these along to his yuppie son, Roger. The story centers around Pettigrew's fight to keep his greedy relatives (including his son) from selling a valuable family heirloom--a pair of hunting rifles that symbolizes much of what he stands for, or at least what he thinks he does. The embattled hero discovers an unexpected ally and source of consolation in his neighbor, the Pakistani shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. On the surface, Pettigrew and Ali's backgrounds and life experiences couldn't be more different, but they discover that they have the most important things in common. This wry, yet optimistic comedy of manners with a romantic twist will appeal to grown-up readers of both sexes. Kudos to Helen Simonson, who distinguishes herself with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as a writer with the narrative range, stylistic chops, and poise of a veteran. --Lauren Nemroff

From Publishers Weekly

In her charming debut novel, Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride. As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys' father split between them, but which Bertie's widow doesn't want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition's sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum. As he frets over the guns, the major's friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author's dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major's beloved firearms. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068937
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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 with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive who 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

993 of 1,020 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is always cause for celebration when a debut author bursts on the scene with an original and whimsical novel that is bound to capture attention. And this novel -- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand -- has much to recommend it.

Major Pettigrew is a very proper and delightfully droll widower of 68 who resides in the quaint village of Edgecombe St. Mary in Sussex, England. He is the father of Roger, a posturing and preening young man who has incorporated none of the values of his dad. And he is also the accidental suitor of the proprietress of the village mini-mart, Jasmina Ali, a 50-something Pakistani widow who shares his love of Kipling and his wry look at the world in which they both reside. The two of them -- the quintessential local and the attractive outsider -- must navigate the gossip and outright prejudice of their stilted society. Helen Simonson writes, "He (the Major) had always assumed gossip to be the malicious whispering of uncomfortable truths, not the fabrication of absurdities. Was a life of careful, impeccable behavior not enough in a world where inventions were passed around as facts?"

This is by no means "chick lit", nor is it hard-hitting politically correct narrative, couched in fiction. It is a charming English comedy of manners -- in places, a laugh-out-loud comedy. A scene, for example, where the atrocities of Pakistani Partition are reduced to a bad-taste dinner show or where the favored ducks of schoolchildren are chosen as prey for a duck hunt are satirical and spot-on.

Yet despite its gentle humor, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand touches on many of the big issues: the clash of culture and religions, the greed of unbridaled globalization, the tension between fathers and sons...and families in general.
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280 of 290 people found the following review helpful By Cilla VINE VOICE on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I got this as an advanced reading copy from the Amazon Vine program, and didn't know anything about it except the brief synopsis from the Vine newsletter. I am fond of reading "gentle" novels that take the reader into the hearts and lives of people in a community, and this novel didn't disappoint me. It has a slow start, but builds up to the point where you can't put it down because you just have to know what happens next. It is a combination of romance, a comedy of manners, a statement on prejudice, a look at family and community relationships, and a reaffirmation that love is ageless. The hero, Major Pettigrew, is widower in his 60's who has become complacent about his quiet existence as a retired Army officer. He is shocked out of his routine by the sudden death of his only brother. He has known the heroine, Jasmina Ali, for quite some time as the wife and then widow of Pakistani shopkeeper in his community. As the Major and Jasmina become closer due to their shared griefs and their common interests, both of them are challenged to look at their own world views and to face the discrimination and shallowness of some of their friends and relatives. There is a nice chemistry between the hero and the heroine. When they become physically intimate, it is done in the "now dear reader, we will close the bedroom door" type of approach, which is fitting for the type of novel that it is. Although the novel isn't religious in tone, the characters and the style reminds me favorably of Jan Karon's Mitford series of novels. That is why I am hoping that the author has more novels about the little English community that is home to the Major and Jasmina. I want to know what happens next.Read more ›
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169 of 181 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Sharp TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Last Stand" is a wondrous novel- a debut by author Simonson written with extraordinary insight and with vivid crackling descriptions so apt you'll find yourself reading slowly so you won't miss any of them. Wry and witty, the book is frequently hilarious and I often laughed so hard the tears were running down my face. The ending of this love story will leave you with a feeling of contentment but most of all the book is a paean to the human spirit that will warm the shackles of your heart.

The novel takes place in the little English village of Edgecombe St. Mary and the prejudices, and race and religious intolerances endemic in a small town are alive and well.

Major Pettigrew, a pukka sahib if there ever was one, is the endearing hero and he finds an unusual soul- mate in Jasmina Ali. The Major has a clipped grey mustache and twinkling blue eyes, and Mrs. Ali. who is Pakistani, has shiny black hair coiled into a bun and her dark brown eyes don't miss a thing. Seemingly yin and yang are these two- seemingly. Under the surface they discover a huge rapport. The Major and Mrs Ali are both widowed; the Major has an obnoxious son, Mrs. Ali has an obnoxious nephew. But it's their love of literature that really bonds them together as well as the fact they are both kind, caring individuals with fine senses of humor bubbling just beneath the surface.

The story is not sentimental or mawkish, it's sparkling and lively. True love will find a way but there are many thorns along this particular rocky path and the book builds up to a crescendo of a climax while you the reader are terrified something awful is going to happen to either the Major or Mrs. Ali.

To make yourself just feel good and indulge in a good laugh, grab this charming book! You'll love it, trust me!
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