Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
Random House
November 2010
384pp

The Short of It:

Full of charm and delightful in many ways, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand manages to entertain while dealing with some heavier themes.

The Rest of It:

Major Ernest Pettigrew lives alone in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside. His brother, who lived very closed to him, passed away suddenly and he is left with a deep sense of grief. Having lost his wife only a couple of years before, the Major finds it incredibly hard to deal with the sudden loss of his brother.

The local shop owner, who lost her husband a few years before, befriends him. Jasmina Ali is charming and exceedingly thoughtful. She takes him under her wing, so to speak. They enjoy walks along the waterfront, many cups of tea and conversation over books they’ve read. Their friendship is quite endearing and slowly evolves into something more.

As pleasant as their relationship is, it’s marred by racial tension as Jasmina is Pakistani and the quaint village they live in, is not willing to accept the possibility of a relationship between the two.  Additionally, the relationship is tested by family members on both sides. What was at first charming, becomes quite challenging as they attempt to navigate uncharted territory.

2010 Indie Lit Awards Lit Fic Finalist

I’ve heard many great things about this novel but I was under the impression that it was a “light” read so I wasn’t planning to read it. However, it was chosen for the *Indie Lit Awards Lit Fiction Short List so as I judge, I am required to read it. I’m very glad I did.

Although very readable, I wouldn’t call this a  light read. There is quite a bit of racial tension throughout the novel. Money is a large theme as well…the haves and the have-nots are present here as well as commercialism, religion, etc. In between all of this is a pleasant story with an endearing protagonist.

What I enjoyed the most were the descriptions of the village and the houses within it. The mention of the grounds, the china, the description of meals eaten and enjoyed. Simonson is brilliant with setting.

However, as charming as it was, there were a few passages that seemed a bit far-fetched and sort of took me out of my comfy spot. Overall though, I enjoyed it and fell in love with the Major.

Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Source: Purchased

*The literary fiction winner will be announced in February 2011.

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32 thoughts on “Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”

    1. I could easily see Major Pettigrew as a movie.I was so charmed by his proper manners and Jasmina’s as well. On the flip side his son was so horrible which made him appear even more pleasant.

    1. Anyone that has not read the book just skip over this reply… Skip, skip, skip… I thought the stabbing and the whole cliff scene were way out of left field. Oh, and the fact that the aunt did not go to jail for it. I also thought the party scene much too long and drawn out. The planning part of it I thought was entertaining, but the actual party was cringe-worthy with the play and all.

      1. I agree about that part (cliff scene) being farfetched. It came out of left field for me as well, but I still loved the book. The writing was wonderful.

  1. I have been considering this one as I keep seeing it EVERYWHERE!! 🙂 I may buy it for my Kindle. I just purchased my first not-free book last night, **The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A Novel**, which is another I have seen around and always wanted to read. Have a great day!
    *smiles*

    1. Enjoy your first, not-free book. I have been downloading stuff left and right lately. So easy to do until you see your credit card bill :\

  2. You are right, the village was very charming. But that was overshadowed by my being bored out of my mind with the story. I listened to it on audio, so maybe I should blame it on that, although the narrator was pretty good. I don’t know…I expected to be completely wooed, but ended up just praying for it to be over.

    1. I would imagine it being hard to get through on audio, just because there was such attention to setting, etc. I like the attention to setting myself, but the party scene would be much too long if I had to listen to it on audio. Long and sort of silly, if you ask me.

  3. This one was one of my favorites of 2010. You’re right, it is not a light read, but it is not very heavy either. I was prepared to detest Major Pettigrew at the beginning, but he won me over.

    1. You’re so right!! I was prepared to hate him and I’m not sure why. I think I read “Major” and thought, stickler, uptight, prim and proper. He was certainly proper in a lot of ways but what a gentleman! I think I was expecially taken with him because there seem to be so few of those around these days and he was anything but perfect and he had a way with words.

  4. I, like Sandy listened to the Major on audio. Unlike Sandy I enjoyed it very much. It might be because I love hearing a British accent and the different way they pronounce words.

    1. Yeah, she did say that the reader was pretty good. I think most people like this book but I’ve disliked many booksthat others have loved so I know it can be a very personal thing to like or not like a book. It’s one of the reasons why my “best of” list isn’t up yet 🙂

  5. I have this on my TBR list and can’t wait to read it. I have to admit I was a bit surprised that you thought it would be a light read – I guess from all the posts I read about it, no one had described it that way. Hmmm. Should definitely make for an interesting read.

    1. I didn’t read any reviews of it because I heard it was a romance and instantly shut it out of my mind. That’s why it’s great that bloggers chose it for the shortlist. I would not have read it otherwise.

  6. I left this one back home so I have to wait til I come back from vacation. Like you, my initial impression of the book is that it’s a light read. The blurb makes it sound like some romance. But I’ll get to it since I have to read it. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the review. Sounds like an interesting read. I saw the book in bookstores, picked it up and put it down again. After reading your post, I’m having second thought. Enjoy another year of great reads, Ti!

  8. I’m still on the fence about reading this one, and I think it has to do with that racial tension. I think I’d probably enjoy a lighter book more right now. Maybe when my reading mood changes I’ll feel differently.

  9. No, I would certainly not call this book “light.” It has a lightness to parts of it and it’s utterly lacking in any grittiness, yes. But, you’re right, there are a lot of heavy themes tackled in this book.

  10. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the village, too! I have a feeling we’ll be discussing this one even more at length soon, so I’ll wait until then to delve even deeper. 🙂

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