Coral Rose's Reviews > Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
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's review
Jun 01, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010, favorites
Read in May, 2010

This is going to be one of the best books I've read all year. More of a review later.

The shining star read of this vacation was definitely Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. While I’m not entirely sure about the portrayal of the Muslim Mrs. Ali, the character development of Major Pettigrew was excellent.

Major Pettigrew’s brother dies, and the book centers around the Major’s navigation of the complexity of familial grief while attempting to finagle his father’s prize gun away from his unsympathetically portrayed sister-in-law. Meanwhile, his blooming friendship with Mrs. Ali, the local shopkeeper, turns the whole community on its head.

But the beauty of this book is in the little moments of Simonson’s prose, the nuggets of unaffected truth.

“He had forgotten that grief does not decline in a straight line or along a slow curve like a graph in a child’s math book. Instead, it was almost as if his body contained a big pile of garden rubbish full both of heavy lumps of dirt and of sharp thorny brush that would stab him when he least expected it.”

“The human race is all the same when it comes to romantic relations,” said the Major. “A startling absence of impulse control combined with complete myopia.”

“You must speak for yourself,” she said gently. “I refuse to play the dried rose and accept that life must be tepid and sensible.”

“You are not the first man to miss a woman’s more subtle communication,” said the Major. “They think they are waving when we see only the calm sea, and pretty soon everybody drowns.”

So true, so true. I highly recommend this one, if only for those stunning moments of clarity.


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