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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Cover



Reading Group Guide


In the outset of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the Major is described as feeling the weight of his age, but on page 320, 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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Average customer rating based on 25 comments:

Emily Ragsdale, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Emily Ragsdale)
A warm-hearted, funny story of two lonely people finding love, despite the obstacles thrown in their way by family and friends and well-meaning neighbors.
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spellerb10, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by spellerb10)
This is such a heartwarming story! The characters are diverse and strong and the plot is never slow but a calming consistency. Masterful scenery and descriptions as well. It's like the reader is a member of the community.
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Magnolia Rando, May 13, 2012 (view all comments by Magnolia Rando)
I enjoyed this sweet little love story. It was about a Retired English Major who begins a friendship with a middle aged Pakistani shop keeper. The book explores their friendship and the reaction of their families. There were several instances that I laughed out loud. Cute book.
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Product Details

Simonson, Helen
Random House Trade
Miller, Derek
Literature-A to Z
fiction;england;romance;racism;british;relationships;prejudice;humor;pakistanis;novel;family;village life;love;contemporary fiction;sussex;widowers;love story;widower;comedy of manners;contemporary;widow;country life;britain;pakistan;family relationships;
fiction;england;romance;racism;british;relationships;prejudice;humor;pakistanis;family;novel;village life;love;contemporary fiction;sussex;widowers;love story;contemporary;widower;comedy of manners;widow;country life;family relationships;britain;pakistan;
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in 1.08 lb

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Random House Trade Paperbacks - English 9780812981223 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a charming, adorable, sweet story about two widowed residents of the small English village of Edgecombe St. Mary.  Major Pettigrew (68) is the quintessential British man-of-the-country, complete with strong ideas about duty, honor, family, village life, etiquette, and tea. Mrs. Ali (58) is a lovely, intellectual, Pakistani woman trying to preserve her life in the country against her late husband's family, who has very different ideas for her future.  When a small flicker of attraction blooms into a small romance between these two, it's sweet and innocent. They both look fondly back upon their respective previous marriages, and this lends itself to an understanding of how rare and lovely a perfect match can be. The Major suffers real angst in trying to navigate his way into this romance and still act within his own idea of what an honorable man is. The reader will truly cheer for these two characters and this charming little gem of a book. I applaud Helen Simonson on her very lovely first endeavor into literature: more, please!

"Review" by , "Helen Simonson's dryly delightful debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is...one of the most endearing love stories I've read in a long time."
"Review" by , "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...by surprise."
"Review" by , “[A] beautiful little love story, which is told with skill and humor.”
"Review" by , "Funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling....As with the polished work of Alexander McCall Smith, there is never a dull moment....It's all about intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand has them all."
"Review" by , "Delightful....Lots of books try to evoke Jane Austen...but Simonson nails the genteel British comedy of manners with elegant aplomb."
"Review" by , "Thoroughly charming....With her crisp wit and gentle insight, Simonson...knows just what delicious disruption romance can introduce to a well-settled life."
"Review" by , "There's more than a bit of Romeo and Juliet here....Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali are worthy of our respect, and it is a great pleasure to spend time with them."
"Review" by , "Marvelous...graceful, funny, perceptive, and satisfying."
"Review" by , "[Helen] Simonson invests her grown-up love story with...warmth and charm."
"Review" by , "A wise comedy...about the unexpected miracle of later-life love... The beauty of this engaging book is in the characters."
"Review" by , “Endlessly entertaining.”
"Review" by , “A comforting and intelligent debut, a modern-day story of love that takes everyone — grown children, villagers, and the main participants — by surprise, as real love stories tend to do.”
"Review" by , "Playful yet affecting....If you miss the Jeeves novels of P. G. Wodehouse — and don't mind having your emotional buttons pushed — Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is the book for you."
"Review" by , “Irresistibly delightful.” (starred review)
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by , A profoundly moving, deliciously suspenseful novel about an American grandfather and a newly orphaned boy racing across the Norwegian wilderness, fleeing demons both real and imagined.
"Synopsis" by ,
Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger Award winner





A luminous novel, a police thriller, and the funniest book about war crimes and dementia you are likely to read

Sheldon Horowitz—widowed, impatient, impertinent—has grudgingly agreed to leave New York and move in with his granddaughter, Rhea, and her new husband, Lars, in Norway: a country of blue and ice with one thousand Jews, not one of them a former Marine sniper in the Korean War turned watch repairman, who failed his only son by sending him to Vietnam to die. Not until now, anyway.

Home alone one morning, Sheldon witnesses a dispute between the woman who lives upstairs and an aggressive stranger. When events turn dire, Sheldon seizes and shields the neighbors young son from the violence, and they flee the scene. But old age and circumstances are altering Sheldons experience of time and memory. He is haunted by dreams of his son Sauls life and by guilt over his death. As Sheldon and the boy look for a haven in an alien world, reality and fantasy, past and present, weave together, forcing them ever forward to a wrenching moment of truth.

Norwegian by Night introduces an ensemble of unforgettable characters—Sheldon and the boy, Rhea and Lars, a Balkan war criminal named Enver, and Sigrid and Petter, the brilliantly dry-witted investigating officers—as they chase one another, and their own demons, through the wilderness at the end of the world.

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