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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Genre: Fiction
Trade paperback, 384 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 92/100

From TLC Book Tour home page:

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, 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 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 regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

My Thoughts:

Major Pettigrew is a 68 year old, widowed, proper English gentleman, who has come to a cross roads in his life.  The Major is feeling his age, and now his only brother has passed away.  In addition, his only child, a son named Roger, lives in London and is too busy with the finer things in life to appreciate his father or where his roots are.  Roger hardly pays attention to the Major, unless he needs something. 
The Major realizes times are changing.  The old ways of civility and honor are fading, just like him, until he meets Mrs. Ali.  Lovely, soft spoken, gentlewomanly Mrs. Ali.  She is Pakistani and has continued running her deceased husband's shop in the village.  Through their love of  Rudyard Kipling and tea, the Major and Mrs. Ali embark on a long, tentative, romantic journey together.  Their road to a full blown love affair is filled with obstacles: their cultural differences, societal attitudes, and their very opinionated friends and family.  All of these themes are woven through marvelously in this story.  It is like they are there, but they are not. 

I loved this book!  It was charming, enjoyable and had me wanting a cup of tea every time I picked it up.  Simonson pulls the reader in immediately with the Major and his close call with depression. So, when he finds the beginnings of happiness with Mrs. Ali you are pulling for him all the way.  The Major also has a dry sense of humor, and his observations and comments throughout the story made me laugh. 

Simonson also paints a beautiful picture of the English countryside and its inhabitants.  It was effortless to imagine myself beside the Major in his daily escapades with the residents of Edgecombe St. Mary.  All of the characters in this book were quite easy to conjure because, you have probably come across one or two of them in your lives: the snobby one, the righteous one, the pretty perfect one, etc.  One of my favorite scenes was towards the end of the story where the Major must "rescue" Mrs. Ali, and it was just delightful.  These two are such a cute couple and I enjoyed my time with them.  This was truly a very sweet story and I wouldn't mind visiting with the Major and Mrs. Ali again.

For more information about Helen Simonson please visit one of the following:
*Her webpage
*Her Facebook page
*Her Goodreads page

For more information about this book tour please visit the master page for the tour at TLC Book Tours.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours for my review copy.