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Major Pettigrew's Last Standby Helen Simonson
Absolutely delightful! Simonson's deftly drawn characters continue to surprise, even when you think you've got them pegged — and Major Pettigrew reminds us that thinking we've got someone pegged is only one of the failures of modern manners. Pettigrew subscribes to the old-fashioned notion that manners are for putting other people at ease, in stark contrast with their more common use: pointing out who doesn't fit in. However, extending grace and goodwill to all does not mean passing up an opportunity for the spot-on one-liner. When the Major attends a duck shoot at the local manor house, he is confronted by the outrageous get-up of a wealthy American: "a shooting jacket of a tartan with which the Major was unfamiliar. Blinding puce, crossed with lines of green and orange... [Ferguson] raised his arms to show stretchy green side panels that resembled a medical corset." The American says, "You're old school, Major. Say, how do you like my neoprene sweat panels?" The Major's reply both avoids a falsehood and causes the American to delight in his dry sense of humor: "Do those assist one in swimming after the ducks, perhaps?" Major Pettigrew is well aware of his own proclivities toward pride and perhaps a touch of greed, but at the same time, his compassion causes him to defy convention and follow his heart, contradicting all the manners and presumptions that his little village in the heart of Sussex, England, can throw his way, ultimately redefining what it means to be a hero.
Synopses & Reviews
You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.
The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
"Unexpectedly entertaining, with a stiff-upper-lip hero who transcends stereotype, this good-hearted debut doesn't shy away from modern cultural and religious issues, even though they ultimately prove immaterial." Kirkus Reviews
"There is a great deal going on in these pages.... Simonson handles it all with great aplomb, and her Major...is the perfect lens through which to view contemporary England." Booklist
"In the noisy world of today it is a delight to find a novel that dares to assert itself quietly with the lovely rhythm of Helen Simonson's funny, comforting, and intelligent first novel — a modern day story of love which takes everyone, grown children, villagers, and the main participants, by surprise — as real love stories tend to do." Elizabeth Strout
"I love this book. Courting curmudgeons, wayward sons, religion and race and real-estate in a petty and picturesque English village – Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is surprisingly, wonderfully romantic and fresh. Unsentimental, intelligent and warm, this endlessly amusing comedy of manners is the best first novel I've read in a long, long time." Cathleen Schine, author of The Love Letter and The New Yorkers
"This irresistibly delightful, thoughtful, and utterly charming and surprising novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro. In fact, it is Simonson's debut. One cannot wait to see what she does next." Library Journal, starred review
"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." 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." 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." Washington Post
Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside is filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and contains a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of readers' own families. Their interactions are both hilarious and heartbreaking.
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 now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area. This is her first novel.
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