Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Helen Simonson (Adult Fiction)
Ernest Pettigrew (that’s MAJOR Pettigrew to you) is retired and enjoying his tea, books, garden, and a rather predictable life in Edgecombe St. Mary. That is until his brother unexpectedly dies, his son is dating some leggy American from New York, and he’s suddenly developed a rather uncontrollable fancy for Mrs. Ali, a widowed woman from Pakistan who runs the village shop. Why, it’s enough to leave this settled, retired gentleman rather…unsettled. And that won’t do.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was Simonson’s first novel and she didn’t shy away from sensitive and controversial topics. Instead, she fearlessly jumps in with both feet and tackles cultural and religious conformity head on. The book begs the question, “Is it possible for someone in the minority to be accepted by the majority: fully and unconditionally?” She broaches the subject with honesty and respect and, most importantly, shows us the fallout of when the heart overrides the horde. The front flap states, “Sometimes love does conquer all”, but I found that not to be entirely accurate. Love may conquer most, but it is not infallible. While the war may be bravely fought, there will be casualties and lives will be changed—whether for the better or worse depends of which side of the battle line you happen to fall.
All in all, Simonson succeeds in delivering a witty, charming, and delightful read and she gives us a main character deserving of his own BBC series. The writing is crisp and intelligent, the story advances at a steady and comfortable pace, and the list of characters range from the exasperating to the enchanting. All combine nicely—like a good cup of tea, a nice plate of biscuits, and a robust fire in the grate—to fulfill even the most particular of palates.