Helen Simonsen – Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (2010)

MajorPettigrewThis novel was such a pleasant surprise. I picked it up for about three dollars at the BMV and read it based on a recommendation from my grandmother. While it wasn’t one of those books that sucked me in from the get go, the slow build led to some fantastic characters, events and conclusions.

Essentially the novel focuses on Major Earnest Pettigrew, a British widower living in the English countryside obsessed with tradition and gaining ownership of his father’s guns (there are two; one which went to Major Pettigrew and one to his brother). As traditional and upright as Major Pettigrew is, he is not nearly as stuffy as some of his fellow residents living in Edgecombe County.

The novels plays out through Major Pettigrew’s interactions with his neighbours, his Yuppie son who he can’t seem to figure out, and with Ms. Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper who is also widowed. In then end Major Pettigrew must decide what he values more and if a relationship with Ms. Ali is worth turning the village on its head for.

I liked this novel because it was fresh and humorous, in a very dry and very British way. The scene where the Golf and Country Club Major Pettigrew is a member of throws a charity dinner with a Moghul theme is completely absurd but so vividly described that you can actually picture the event and feel the reactions of both the British Society Ladies and the Pakistani women who are in attendance. Simonson spends a lot of time exploring rifts in culture, between British and the Pakistani Community, as well as generational; between Major Pettigrew and his son Roger, or Ms. Ali and her nephew Abdul Wahib.

The book was a light and fun read and anyone who’s a fan of movies like The Quiet Man, or Saving Grace, is sure to love this book as well.

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