Rosa's Reviews > Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
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's review
Jan 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction
Read in January, 2011

I loved this book: I congratulate Helen Simonson for a wonderfully rich debut novel. It was a terrific January choice for me, as I've challenged myself to read more books this year, and it very effectively shifted my reading habit into higher gear, leaving me eager for more.

An easy and pleasant read set in an English village, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is at the surface, a 'second time around' love story between elders we admire and respect, but then other themes emerge by way of Simonson's skillful storytelling and character portrayals: The book is a natural for book clubs, or for friends to share. As I began to read, it was a game for me to highlight the words I don't see too often in text — or hear at all in our stripped-down, technology-tweaked language of today… senescence, scullery, dyspepsia, antimacassars, churlish, lugubrious… the list became longer, a subtle teaching of how words are so integral to our cultures, and a joy to the reader, feeding our belief that we must be better cultured for our own good. Another game could be to count how many times she could mention having tea; that number could be higher, for I did wonder if the British are able to function, and have the most basic of conversations without it! But soon I abandoned the highlighter because the story was building, and I wanted to 'read deeper.'

The book will cause you to long for more face to face civility in our world, and yet it is humorous, not stiff (Jasmina delivers a gem of a line on page 324: so great when a book gets you to laugh out loud.) Nearly every character reveals a hidden layer of emotional complexity, yet they are instantly, humanly like us if we admit to it, and not strangely fictional. One of the most delightful surprises in the story for me was Grace, and how her character grows into her name. The book has a light touch all in all, and you can romp through it quickly, simply enjoying the story, yet it can be so much more if you let it in, completely open to how it might speak to you.

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01/26/2011 page 70
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