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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

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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?

359 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Helen Simonson

5 books2,150 followers
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 with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive who has lived in America for almost three decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she is married with two sons. Her debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, was a NY Times bestseller and was published in twenty one countries. Her second novel The Summer before The War is also a NY Times and international bestseller and is now available in paperback.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,821 reviews
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 39 books23.1k followers
January 30, 2011
If Masterpiece Theatre doesn't make this book into a movie starring Derek Jacobi, it will be a crime. There has not been so perfectly English a read in its deadpan humor in a very long time. Meet Major Pettigrew: widower, retired army officer, and pillar of the community in his small English town. He is set in his ways: tea with acquaintances, shooting parties with friends, reticence at all times. But the Major's life starts falling into chaos when he falls in love, and with a most unsuitable candidate - Mrs. Ali, a charming Pakistani widow with a shared passion for Kipling. But while the local community might be willing to see the Major marry a proper tea-drinking Englishwoman, they are certainly not prepared to see him waltz off in the arms of a woman in a sari. The delight of this book lies in its humor, and its even-handedness. The writer pokes equal fun at the young and the old - the Major might be set in his ways, but his bumptious social-climbing young son is far worse. It's also refreshing to see the "East vs. West" stereotype turned on its head: the Pakistani families in this book are not simply portrayed as saintly picked-upon underdogs who can teach their English counterparts all about life, but as a fully rounded culture in their own right. The author observes with humor and tact that in any culture the young dismiss the old, the old roll their eyes at the young, and local traditions are sometimes beautiful and sometimes ridiculous wherever you happen to come from. All one can do in the face of it is laugh - and cheer that the Major and Mrs. Ali might waltz off to a happy ending despite the opposition of their families. And how lovely to see a passionate romance between a Romeo of sixty-eight and a Juliet of fifty-eight.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
March 18, 2021
Major Ernest Pettigrew is a decent sort, 68, retired military, widowed, and coping with the death of his younger brother, Bertie. He is a respected fixture in a rural community, member of the local golf course club, romantic target for one of the local ladies, and defender of traditional values. He is disappointed with his son, who has made a religion of career ambition, and considers the provincial notions of his neighbors less than cricket. But everything changes when he encounters Mrs. Ali, a widowed Pakistani shop-keeper. Despite their different backgrounds, Pettigrew and Ali find that they have much in common.

Helen Simonson - image from The Globe and Mail

As Simonson takes us through the will-they-or-won’t-they she also offers a look at contemporary rural England, with old values and new engaging in public and private. With characters that have depth and heart, and a charming, endearing love story, it is easy to care, and thus to become involved, and ultimately, to enjoy. Hopefully Pettigrew’s last stand will not also be Ms. Simonson’s. (It wasn't)

Published - March 2, 2010

Review first posted - May 2010

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Plans are, or at least were, afoot for a television production of the novel, but at present, it listed in IMDB.COM only as "in development." But as of now (March 2021) it is still a nogo, which is terribly sad. I had been very much looking forward to seeing Bill Nighy in the title role.

Links to Simonson's personal, FB and Twitter pages
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,398 reviews11.7k followers
February 19, 2011
Whoever read my Olive Kitteridge rant, probably knows that I am not much into reading books about old people. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, however, proves that any book about any subject matter or any type of characters can become a great experience if written well.

This novel is, essentially, a love story between a 68-year old retired Major Ernest Pettigrew and a 58-year old Pakistani shop keeper Mrs. Ali, brought together by their loneliness and love of literature. Yes, it doesn't sound very exciting, and yet it is an absolutely charming story. Set in modern England, it encompasses many facets of British life - clashes and frictions between generations, social classes, religions, and cultures - all portrayed from the POV of an aging, conservative and very proper man who, because of his late love, finds himself compelled to face many issues he preferred to avoid or overlook in the past.

English-Pakistani relationships take a center stage in this novel and are written in a particularly tactful and insightful way, without sugar coating the difficult colonial past of both countries and prejudices that exist up to this day.

The writing style deserves special mention. Not only the novel is never boring, but it is written with an Austen-like elegant humor which I don't come across very often in contemporary literature.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in a cozy read set in a tiny English village populated by colorful tea-drinking characters.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,607 followers
May 22, 2018
If you are looking for something to read that is delightful, charming, with many layers of depth, this is a book you will love. Although it takes place in England, this novel is not specifically about the geography of the land or the people of that geography. It is much more universal than that.

It is a story about romance, but it isn’t a romance novel. It is a story about family, but it isn’t a family saga. It is a story that deals with religion, politics, race relations and other sensitive topics, but without proselytizing. Everything fits together – traditions, values, rebellion, challenges – and creates a story that is both timely and very real.

I loved the characters in this book, even the ones who weren’t lovable. The plot and sub-plots kept me turning pages and wishing I had more time each day to devote to devouring each chapter. This book and the characters in it affected me deeply and they were a reminder for me of the joys of reading.

There were so many little nuggets of wit and wisdom within these pages that I had to stop writing them all down in favour of being one with the flow of the writing. It is a rare and wonderful experience to feel completely included within a novel. This one held me close through the enchantment of a wonderful story and excellent writing.

If you have yet to read this book, I am happy to recommend it with enthusiasm and confidence. I can’t imagine anyone whose life would not be touched in some way by the story and the writing.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
January 25, 2019
I say.... old chap... What a wonderful book. Delicious, full of humor, wit, it's colorful, delicate, wise.... cute, a big five star, very special!
Highly recommended! I'll be looking for more work of this author.
Profile Image for TJ.
2,686 reviews163 followers
January 24, 2011

This is the perfect book to read before bedtime. It is not an edge of your seat, can't put the book down, must turn the page to see what happens next type but the calm, touching, peaceful but poignant, close the book with a sigh kind. One to turn the lights off with a smile and a thought to slumber by.

Major Pettigrew is a 67 year old English widower who is trying to navigate the growing changes in the world, the dearth of discipline, the turning tide of etiquette, the lack of loyalties. He has an absolutely delightful, droll dry wit, sometimes sarcastic but always dead on and hilarious as he observes and intermingles with the world at large. He is truly the star of this story. He becomes as dear to the reader as a beloved, yet eccentric uncle would.

Mrs. Ali is a kind, generous Pakistani widow who owns and runs the small convenience store down the street from Major Pettigrew. As she struggles to maintain her individuality as a worthwhile woman while adhering to the pressures of her fundamentalist Muslim family, she finds a friend and soul mate in the kind, quiet man of Mr. Pettigrew.

Their journey through the strict confines of both societies, the prejudices of a "enlightened" generation as well as, their own insecurities and natures, to find happiness is written to perfection. Truly a gem of a story!
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,160 reviews509 followers
December 31, 2017
"I don't believe the greatest views in the world are great because they are vast or exotic," she(Jamina) said. "I think their power comes from the knowledge that they do not change. You look at them and you know they have been the same for a thousand years."

Major Ernest Pettigrew,Royal Sussex, retired, is an old curmudgeon of the traditional order. As prescribed by his military past, everything should be ordered, strictly predictable and, well, staunchly traditional, as honor and duty and his family's good name demands. His soft side, his love for his deceased wife, Nancy, is totally private. That's expected. His village, Edgecombe St. Mary, somewhere in the south of England, is like him. Nothing happens and it keeps on not happening forever. Change comes slowly and superficially most of the time.

But then his brother Bertie dies, and just as he ends the telephone call, bringing the news, Mrs. Jamina Ali of the grocery store, knocks on his door. She is the first to notice his strictly controlled sorrow over the death of his last family member in his own generation. Apart from sharing his love for books, she also understands his feeling of loss. She is Pakistani, without family, without her deceased husband, and no children. Nothing better can kick-start a friendship between two lonely people who feel left out from the world out there.

Of course it won't happen without kicking and screaming. Daisy, the Vicar's wife, will lead the open revolt against a disruption of orderly segregation in the village. Nose-uppity, with a lady band of followers, she will strain against the winds of change threatening the laid-back deliciously and proper British institutions.
"Oh, she worries about everyone so much, you know," said the Vicar. "She has such a big heart." The Major looked at him, astonished. Such touching delusion must underlie many otherwise inexplicable marriages, he thought, and liked Christopher( the Vicar) all the better for loving his wife.
To top it all off, Major Pettigrew's son, Roger, drops a bombshell with introducing his new girlfriend, an American-- oh dear yes-- to the poor man. A loud-mouth American developer, Ferguson, moves in for a property development kill; Jamina's newphew, the scowling, frowning, strict Muslim follower, Abdul Wahid, moves into her home and shop; an annual costume ball, themed in honor of the Major's deceased father who fought in India, is organized in the golf club with its own microcosmos of rules and regulations; and it is evident that something's gotta give!

The caterers will have to be Pakistani, yes. Now how do you invite a few of them without allowing them membership to the exclusive club.

Then there is the matter of the two Churchill rifles so dear to the Major's heart. Deathbed promises and famly relationships are at risk. Traditions have to be honored.

Change is coming, and not coming. Love will be found, lost, and found again. The more things change, the more it will stay the same. Blessings come in different disguises.

For a reader with a healthy sense of humor, this book will be a super delight to read. It is about communication gone manual again. It goes back to tête-a- tête. No digitalization of any kind. A few ducks get in a row, and a few will dodge a suicidal flight. Even the Christmas turkey will go on a post mortal flight.
"Hurro," came the voice again. "Who, who the ... what day is it?"
"It's the fourteenth of January," said the Major. "I think you've overslept."
"What the ..."
"It's Christmas Day and it's already past eight thirty," said the Major. "You must get up and put on the turkey, Roger."
"I think it's in the garden," said Roger. The major heard a faint retching and held the phone away from his ear in disgust.
"I think I threw the turkey out the window,"said Roger. "Or maybe I threw it throught the window. There's a big draft in here."
"So go and fecth it," said the Major.
Needless to say, this was a delightful, entertaining, wonderful read.

As a debut novel, it attracted the attention of the world. For 27 weeks it stayed on the New York Times Bestseller list, are being translated into 16 languages, and the movie rights have been sold. I can see why.

Apart from being hilarious, witty, funny, and all things crazy, it is also a novel of gentle compassion and love. In a graceful, perceptive way we are all confronted with our own memories of good things dwindling fast as our way of communication is changing. Good manners are being forgotten; violence and rudeness are taking over. This book brings us back to everything we have lost. It is a reminder to change what we can and accept the things we cannot. The underlying message in the book is bursting through the excellent prose and well-developed plot.

It is soooooooo my kind of book!

Profile Image for Claudia Sorsby.
459 reviews25 followers
June 8, 2011
One of the more frustrating books I have ever read. Some good writing, but with terrible characters and dodgy plotting--an infuriating combination.

The author can turn a nice phrase. But, the Major excepted, the characters are terrible. I know so little about Mrs. Ali, which is a shame; she seemed like she must have been a hell of a lady.

The son, Roger, is particularly weak; he's a complete cartoon. Ooh, a shallow young man, who condescends to and fails to understand his dad? Really? Let me guess: Does he work in finance? Why, yes. Is he self-absorbed, ambitious but not very bright, and tactless? Check, check, check. Does he favor inappropriately flashy clothes and dumb, easily mockable modern decor? Of course he does. I shouldn't be able to predict every single aspect of a character's behavior, but I was.

There were similar problems with the plot: There were several scenes where I thought, "Oh, BS. The author has no idea about this." A lot of the gun stuff, specifically, and people's behavior at a hunt, was simply not credible.

It took me a while to finish this, because I kept thinking, "Oh, I should read more of that, but I don't wanna." After a while, I'd get brave and pick it up, and sure enough soon I'd be chuckling or saying, "Oh, that's nice!" to a specific line. But boy, it felt long.


Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books673 followers
January 19, 2018
Sjajna knjiga, protkana finim sofisticiranim humorom... Lepo opisuje i kulturološke razlike u Britaniji (između krutog Britanca i udovice Pakistanke) a i jaz i nerazumevanje među generacijama (između oca i sina)... Ta knjiga mi se izdvojila u moru drugih koje sam te godine pročitala... 4 godine pokušavam da nagovorim nekog srpskog izdavača da je objavi, ali bez rezultata, no ne gubim nadu... Hrvatski čitaoci su u prednosti, prava je kupio Algoritam...

Skoro pet godina je trajalo ubeđivanje sa srpskim izdavačima da je neko objavi... I valjda sam im se popela navrh glave pa se jedan napokon smilovao... :) DakleM, ova knjiga će ove godine ugledati svetlost dana u Srbiji, ne pre leta a najverovatnije za sajam... :)
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,910 followers
February 26, 2010
I am utterly baffled as to why this book is popular. I expected sweet and charming and got dry and dull. The obsession with the pair of guns was overdone, and was what finally made me stop reading the book. The book is also bogged down with architectural detail and long, pointless descriptions of landscapes and interior decor.

The author's stereotyping of Americans is appalling and insulting. She's clearly playing to British readers with this attitude. "...the ignorance of the bad-mannered"?! As if all 350 million of us are exactly alike. Not all Americans are tacky and boorish and pushy. She knows that. She's lived in the U.S. for 20 years. Totally not cool to portray us that way.

Profile Image for Laura.
132 reviews564 followers
February 26, 2011
Though at times charming, this book mostly left me wondering what sort of a world the author imagines England to be. Her characterizations are far more disjointed than the plot, which has its flaws but at worst they’re jarring, not heinous. However, the characterizations don’t work not merely because there are only two or three bearable people in the entire novel (and this isn't a farcical satire), but mainly because they’re a convoluted mess of contexts. Major Pettigrew’s manners and standards hearken from a more gentlemanly era, yet it’s as though he’s a one-man time warp surrounded by modern incarnations of rudeness and overt materialism – his son is breathtakingly selfish and shallow, his relatives are vulgar and grasping, and the local squire has class snobbery but no sense of heritage. (And are we supposed to feel sorry for the Major because of his frightful son, or wonder at his bad parenting??)

Worse, and still more disjointed, many of the other characters seem to come from outposts of civilization in the 1930’s where people think that Mecca is a restaurant and Hindu and Muslim are the same things. Yet the story is obviously contemporary, so why would the author create a collection of characters in 2010 who overtly shun children raised by single mothers and won’t talk to the village shop owner because she’s “in trade” and has dark skin??? The whole thing is preposterous, and I suspect it comes from some people's obnoxious desire to paint the rest of the world as narrow-minded and petty in order to position themselves as morally superior. It’s a shame, because in defter hands the story could have been uniformly sweet and delightful. The idea of family heritage and honor being embodied in an heirloom is especially interesting and poignant...as is the fraught road to late-in-life love. Too bad the themes are ruined by the addled execution. (A highlight is when a curry dish is considered far too spicy and exotic to serve at some golf club dinner – the author is so hell-bent on portraying everyone as provincial that she somehow forgot the English have been eating curry for over a century?? Good grief.)
Profile Image for Grace.
254 reviews70 followers
March 7, 2011
When I hear "character-driven novel", I usually roll my eyes. I expect navel-gazing and lots of exploration of self, and it comes a bit too close to self-help for my tastes. But Simonson gets it absolutely right in Major Pettigrew.

Reading about a 68 year old, widowed, retired Major in a sleepy English village is not necessarily a draw for most readers, but there's an alchemy in the way the characters are written. Every single character in this book feels real and genuine. Some start off as stereotypes, but few of them remain that way -- and you don't have to wait for the end of the book to discover their layers. Within a handful of pages, you start getting bits of personality that make the characters jump to life. They're all incredibly enjoyable -- I'm usually someone who likes adventure stories and urges the plot to go faster, but not once did I feel like Simonson was dragging her heels. Each moment spent with her characters is another chance to figure out how they tick. They're just wonderful. Including Major Pettigrew -- no small thing, when the retired military toff stereotype is so strong.

The only thing that knocked a star off this review for me was a slightly hackish plot device at the end, but it's such a minor thing it really only counts for half a star. I could spend books and books getting to know Simonson's characters. It's totally worth it, and totally delightful.
Profile Image for Amina.
373 reviews133 followers
March 2, 2023
I thoroughly enjoyed this, stiff-upper lip, English countryside, slow burn love story of two widowed people. Major Pettigrew (called Major throughout the book) in his mid 60's has just lost his brother and Jasmina Ali, a shop owner gives him a ride to the funeral. From there, they slowly form a bond over their shared loss of spouses as well as books.

Major's son, Roger, a sort of hodge-podge jerk really gets under his skin. He is always too nice, too kind, too proper, too decent. He is compassionate and lovely. When he finally starts to finally stand up for himself, I applauded him quietly.

This is a book about cultural clashes, but also love. A courting done in a Mr. Darcy-esque way (without all the broodi-ness).

The world is full of small ignorances. We must all do our best to ignore them and thereby keep them small..

Mrs. Ali, English, born and bred, an obvious outsider has a lot to deal with in the village. How is she acting, how is she talking, and most importantly, who is she talking to? She's a woman that lives by the values closely aligned to her culture, yet Major and her grow fond of one another in an organic way, worthy of exploring.

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

As a Pakistani myself, there were few cultural discrepancies, it's almost impossible to write a story with perfect cultural awareness. When side characters 'assume" things about Mrs. Ali or her more religious nephew, it was distracting. But, simply a matter of writing a book about another culture, never an easy task.

I'm always a stickler for romance and fascinated by elegant connections with chivalry and class. This is a story with old time values immersed in a contemporary time. The writing, witty and crisp.

Major's fascination with proper tea is particularly fun. He needs fine china, just the right about of milk, and NEVER (ever) in a styrofoam cup.

4/5 stars
Profile Image for THE .
44 reviews
May 27, 2010
It is a truth universally acknowledged...that you cannot judge a book by its cover...or even dust jacket. Tis a pity, since this book possesses a stunning one adapted from a 1924 LIFE cover. I recommend framing it and placing what remains between the covers in the recycle bin.

British village life novels have long been a cherished enterprise, much adored by the public since the age of the divine Miss Austen and continuing with E. F. Benson, P. G. Woodhouse, Agatha Christie, and a variety of modern writers, including Caroline Graham, Joanna Trollope, and David Mitchell. Such diversions are generally welcome and it was with great expectations that I opened the first novel by a transplanted Brit Helen Simonson, who sought to occupy her time as "a stay-at-home mother in Brooklyn [and her former:] busy advertising job" in creative writing programs. The result was the present volume. While her efforts are worthy of praise, her results are not. Without imagination and sensitivity to language even the best writing programs cannot produce a credible storyteller, let alone a creative writer. Although her romantic tale of a slightly stuffy and somewhat depressed retired major and a self-possessed Pakistani shopkeeper and widow has possibilities, the narrative is trite, the minor characters are stereotypes, and the denouement reads like a "Perils of Pauline" melodrama. Ms. Simonson's descriptions reveal that she possesses a good thesaurus: nary a noun can seemingly exist without a modifier....whispers must be hoarse, dandelions budding, curves wobbly, and so on. It seems unfortunate that she could not employ that invaluable thesaurus in the creation of an occasional action verb to moderate her adjectival assault. (Now she has me doing it.) In any case, such writing is a sure sign of an ingenue, but is not in itself sufficient reason to abandon a book of imagination and charm (as the recent GUERSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY has so successfully revealed).

More significant is the fact that her characters, with the sporatic exception of the major and the widow, are cardboard and uninteresting. They serve only to reinforce the novel's "profound" insights: racism is bad, religious fanaticism is dangerous, money corrupts, and virtue will (eventually) triumph. As for the British major and the Pakistani widow, it does not matter that after page one, we can guess what will transpire. After all, much great writing is formulaic. In this case, however, the 350-page journey is not one that will reward the reader with amusement, pleasure, or insight. This is a work of such unfulfilled and immature literary skill, that it reminds us of the words of Chaucer: "lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne." One can hope that Ms Simonson will spend more time learning her craft...or perhaps return to the field of travel advertising.
Profile Image for Marsha.
468 reviews36 followers
October 10, 2010
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a wonderful comedy of manners in which the multiculturalism, rudeness and self absorption of the present collide with the stiff upper lip, rigid social consciousness and self absorption of the past as portrayed by Major Pettigrew and his son. As the realities of 2010 Britain creep relentlessly into a village stuck in a time warp of Empire and English superiority, the character of the characters in each group is revealed. Some evolve, some are hopelessly stuck and some are not what they seem.

Surprising and deeply felt, the story is also about the kind of courage and re-evaluation that motivates and illuminates the human heart. I loved it!

Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,074 reviews711 followers
September 15, 2013
This is the best novel I’ve read this year and may be destined to make my top ten list. The well designed plot is pulled together with carefully crafted writing. I’m embarrassed to be so enthusiastic about it because it is actually a romance novel which is a genre I usually steer clear of.

But this is a romance novel that contains human lessons, tensions and struggles almost too numerous to count. The most obvious battle is racial, religious and cultural prejudices. Then there’s the struggle between generations and the expectations of sexual morality. There’s also the psychology of dealing with the loss by death of a loved one and the subsequent tensions of dealing with inheritances issues. Then there’s the issue of material objects becoming more important than human relationships. There’s also the issue of ageism. And many of these issues show up in parallel fashion in both the native English and immigrant Pakistani communities.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the plot also involves the political and economic issues related to future land use and development. Fortunately, the writing contains just enough wry humor to keep a smile on the reader’s face. The story ends with enough excitement to make it worth reading all the way to the end.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that the main character of the novel is a man about the same age as me which is very unusual for a romance novel. So maybe that fact tainted my judgment. But there’s almost nothing else in the story I can identify with.

The plot follows an elderly English widower, retired from a military career, who is very concerned about doing things in the proper way. He seems very judgmental of others, but ends up enjoying the company of a woman of Pakistani ancestry in spite of himself. His son has an American girl friend which of course is an insult to his English sensibilities. And the English-Pakistani woman has a nephew with whom she has a strained relationship. And then there’s the gossip going around the small English community in which they live. The intermingled and complex problems continue from there.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,785 reviews2,340 followers
December 26, 2011
Yeah, so I'm old and jaded and cynical. Books about fresh, dewy eyed youngsters meeting and falling instantly in love, make me roll my eyes and grimace. LUST at first sight...THAT I understand. But when a couple meets and they are instantly struck with the world-stopping, earth-shaking, (insert mushy love related cliche here), knowledge that they will be together until the end of time...oh, give me a break!

When Major Pettigrew meets Mrs. Ali, the earth does not move, or stop, for that matter. She's just that woman from the village shop. No biggie. They share many, many cups of tea, take walks together, meet to (be still my heart!) discuss books, and help solve crises involving others' matters of the heart.
Gradually, he comes to realize that there is indeed something very special about her, and maybe, just maybe...well, you get the picture.

This book is charmingly old-fashioned. A bit too slow moving for many, I'm sure. Droll humor abounds and occasionally a truly lovely sentence rears its head. I liked the way one character described his feelings for a woman, -- "In her presence, I'm lost to her. She's like a streak of light, or maybe a blow to the head." That's really what love is like, isn't it? A kick in the gut, butterflies in the stomach, that feeling of floating on air, knowing that the next moment could bring you crashing painfully to the waiting sidewalk. And, holy crap! You CAN feel like that at any age!

So, I enjoyed this tale of old farts in love. It was indeed the right book at the right time. And next time I read about two foolish kids whose eyes meet across a crowded dance floor, and they just KNOW that it was meant to be...

I'll try not to grind my teeth too audibly.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,888 reviews218 followers
April 16, 2020
This book is filled with dry humor, social satire, and a message of acceptance. Major Pettigrew is a 68- year-old widower. When his brother dies suddenly, he is comforted by Mrs. Ali, a widow, and they become friends. Their friendship blossoms, then is almost derailed by an episode of cultural appropriation and prejudice. Through interactions with friends and family in this small English village, the author sheds light on intolerance in its many forms, such as race, class, sex, age, religion, and ethnicity.

It is a story of finding love at any age, and the importance of discovering common ground and seeing beyond our petty differences. This book touches on so many aspects of life that there seems to be something for just about anyone – obligation, loyalty, integrity, grief, loss, jealousy, and love. Parent-child relationships and differences in the generations are explored in a humorous, and sometimes poignant, manner. It gently skewers British small-town social conventions and American cultural insensitivities. My only complaint is that the ending is unexpectedly quite different in tone and pace than the rest of the book.

I listened to the audiobook, and highly recommend it. I am not sure I would have enjoyed reading this book quite as much as listening to it. Peter Altschuler does a marvelous job of supplying different voices and accents (American and British), and switches between them seamlessly. He is a perfect choice to voice the gruff, stoic, (but also kind and accepting) Major Pettigrew.

It will appeal to fans of Our Souls at Night or A Man Called Ove, though Major Pettigrew is much less cynical than Ove. Book clubs should find plenty of topics for discussion. I found it delightful.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,206 reviews50 followers
May 14, 2018
Sweet love story in a very English countryside.
Profile Image for Laura.
754 reviews2 followers
April 10, 2010
Major Ernest Pettigrew (Ret.) is a stickler for protocol; a man set in his routine in both action and philosophy, although he is not without the occasional witty retort. Major Pettigrew is a stout umbrella-toting man, a folding stool- carrying man, a man in control of his comfortable environment, until the day he answers his door to find the charming Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the local Pakistani shop owner, standing on his doorstep.

United by their love of Kipling and their lingering bereavement of their departed spouses, Major Pettigrew (who was born in Lahore), and Mrs. Ali (who was born in Cambridge), begin to form a surprising friendship, only to be thrown off by the subtle prejudices of the townspeople, the pressures asserted by Mrs. Ali’s ultra-religious nephew (who has taken over the shop since her husband’s demise), and the frenetic social-climbing of Major Pettigrew’s son.

In her polished debut novel Helen Simonson has created a charming story of village politics, multicultural conflicts, the value of good manners, and the zest in a jolly good turn of phrase. Intertwined with the basic story of Major Pettigrew’s attempt to reunite two collectible Churchill shotguns and Mrs. Ali’s attempt to reunite her nephew with his estranged son and girlfriend, are important themes of how we view each other and ourselves. Major Pettigrew’s aversion to modernity also provides for moments of discussion on what’s worth saving and what we must let go of in order to move forward and embrace a new life.

With wit and charm “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” helps the reader to see that a firm stance on all issues might be applauded, but it might also be located just beyond the hedgerow.
Profile Image for Camie.
898 reviews186 followers
August 22, 2016
This New York Times bestseller is Helen Simonson's debut novel which I sought out after reading her second book , The Summer Before The War.
Taking place in a small pastoral town in the English countryside, this book features the unlikely " golden years" romance of Major Pettigrew a staunch believer in retaining the decorum of a proper Englishman and Mrs. Ali a beautiful and exotic widowed shopkeeper from Pakistan. It's admirable that they yearn to follow their hearts despite the adversity shown by the townsfolk and of course their younger relatives who feel it's their duty to intervene. One of my Bookclub friends recently said so many of the books I read are depressing, well, here is an uplifting finely written story with humor and characters you can really root for. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 5 stars
Profile Image for Carol.
829 reviews482 followers
April 24, 2015

Is it enough to tell you Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Is delightful? It was like seeing a garden of the most fragrant, beautiful flowers, with one dandelion, the only one that could be picked. This audiobook turned out to be the beauty.

It is the story of two persons with completely different backgrounds willing to find common ground.
The Major (Earnest, aptly named) – Retired British Army, military attitude, and strong values, almost stuffy with an air of ostentation.
Mrs. Ali (Jasmina) – A Pakistani shopkeeper, a bit of an oddity in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary, smart, kind,

Both The Major & Mrs. Ali have recently lost spouses and are finding their way through grief. The book opens with another loss for The Major, his only brother Bernie. To complicate this sense of loss, the brothers held separately a pair of valuable guns inherited from their father. The Major thought these were willed to him, Bernie’s family wants the cash Bernie’s gun would bring. This is almost more unbearable a loss to The Major than that of his brother.

Jasmina is an independent spirit, a reader, a Pakistani woman before her time. Her nephew, Abdul Wahli is working in the shop but Jasmina feels more than capable of running her husband’s business. Tradition dictates her place and she must consider allowing Abdul to take over but she won’t go out without a fight.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a story of grieving, family, love and duty. It is charming, funny, honest story with a strong theme of cultural clash.

I am positive that my enjoyment of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is largely due to the fine narration of the audiobook by Peter Altschuler. He gives Major Pettigrew just the right tone of proper brusqueness without diminishing the importance of the other characters. His ability to distinguish each allowing his/her own voice is proof of his expertise.

Somewhere in the middle the pace slowed but then something happened that continued the momentum of a fine story. Helen Simonson's debut, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is delightful.
Profile Image for Denise.
372 reviews4 followers
June 11, 2019
I read a very positive review and bought this book the day it was available. I really loved it...witty and dry, great fun. The narrative has a very british perspective. Great charcters.

The sensitive subject of the british memories of the colonial era in contrast to other cutures and people are really handled well. It both entertains and provokes thought which to me constitutes a perfect book. I just happen to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" the same weekend and thought the two contrasted well.

The author is British but grew up in the United States, so she has a keen eye for the significant gaps between cultures, the old world way and the new high tech global way, tradition versus change for the better, the Empire's version of history and the version of history as seen by others!

I would recommend this book, it would make a great book club read. Hope she writes another soon.
Profile Image for Karina.
818 reviews
July 12, 2018
It wasn't a terrible read... I kept at it bc Major Pettigrew, the main character, was witty and funny at times. It was a tad slow so I did skim a lot. The story is basically about a 60-ish year old, white, British man making friends and seeing his little bubble of a town differently after the death of his brother and slowly falling in love with a Pakistani woman, which is scandalous in his little countryside. Wasn't my favorite book on my current list...
Profile Image for Cititor Necunoscut.
459 reviews84 followers
August 29, 2019
Schimbarea titlului cartii la traducerea in limba romana, punandu-se accentul pe doamna Ali si nu pe Major Pettigrew mi s-a parut o greseala, caci el este cu adevarat personajul principal. Mi s-a parut exact personajul excentric, de genul lui Ove, Britt Marie sau Eleanor Oliphant, fara a avea insa umorul lor. Dar mi-a placut cartea, mi-a placut subiectul si mai ales mi-au placut personajele.
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,458 reviews105 followers
July 17, 2021
This summer I am putting aside (almost) my history books and reading lighter books or rereading old favorites. This is an old favorite.

I loved this endearing book which was recommended to me by a friend who loved it equally. It reminds me of Jane Austen moved to modern times....wit and social commentary with equal emphasis on both. A retired widower, Major Pettigrew, late of the British Army, is proud of his family's illustrious history and is a bit of an throw back to the polite, rather stuffy gentlemen of earlier times. He finds himself attracted to the village store keeper, Mrs. Ali, herself a widow who is just tolerated by the close minded villagers because she is of Pakistani descent. What evolves is a delightful tale that will make you chuckle at the wit, and gnash your teeth at the prejudice. It is heartwarming and proves that love is not a monopoly of the young. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,209 reviews
July 28, 2017
I really loved this book and I have a wistful smile on my face just thinking about it.

A lot of it is sentimentality as it is a very English book and the Major reminds me somewhat of my Dad...his values and his thinking and his jokes! And the village he lives in is very similar to this one.

This was quietly hilarious - the Major's dry sense of humour and the sometimes ridiculous situations he gets himself into purely down to social niceties and perceived face-saving is very funny.

A lot of interesting themes such as race, class, family, love and sex are explored in a gentle but engaging story.

I am not generally a lover of romances and I wouldn't call this a romance novel as it's more of a family drama but it did appeal to my romantic self (who is very rarely present!).

Highly recommended although do bear in mind that my English sentimentality will have influenced my score greatly.

PS. The audio version is excellent.
Profile Image for Fred Shaw.
562 reviews42 followers
July 10, 2017
Major Pettigrew, a retired British Army officer, is a man who is used to being in control of his routine and social life. What little there is. He is a widower of 5 years and has recently buried his brother Bertie. He has a son who is mostly interested in himself and often refers to his 68 year old father as "elderly". The Major is also lonely. He has his Golf Club where he plays with a few close friends. His other activities include shooting events where he uses 1 of a matched pair of Churchill shotguns which together in a sale can bring huge sums of money. You see the weapons are perfect workmanship and are rare. The pair was passed to Ernest and brother, one to each, from their father as part of the will. They were awarded by an Indian Prince to Col. Pettigrew, Ernest and Bertie's father, when India was awarded their independence.

During the Major's attendance at his brother's funeral and during his mourning time, he becomes attracted to an Indian widow, Mrs. Ali and a romance builds. A Lot of events of a family, social and prejudicial nature get in the way. Here lies the rub in the book for me. The social and public antics in the story, while comical, border on the absurd. A melee between families and the local snob society break out at a Club sponsored dance where feelings were hurt and romances ebbed.

Helen Simonson is a wonderful story teller, builds believable and lovable characters and uses her knowledge of British society to add spice to the telling. This is her first novel. While this was an enjoyable read, i felt her second book "The Summer Before the War " to be an improvement.
Profile Image for Shelli.
1,043 reviews17 followers
June 10, 2011
What a great story! I loved it. It starts a bit slow, but really packs an enjoyable punch through to the ending. I really grew attached to the Major and this great cast of characters. Some laugh out loud moments...some very poignant moments and a very enjoyable love story. I love the blending of the cultures and the new and older generations. You got a feel for all sides of the story and it made for both sad and wonderful outcomes. This story surprised me many times. I thought I would end up disappointed but the opposite is true. I loved the character development and recommend this for a light and uplifting read.
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