Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last StandThere are some books that I read and really don’t want to write much about them: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson falls into this category. (See this post for the opening sentence, an extract from page 56 and the description on Amazon)

The quotations on the back cover all praise this book as ‘charming’, ‘funny’, ‘heart-warming’, ‘refreshing in its optimism’, ‘jolly’, ‘a delight’, ‘quirky’, and ‘lovely’.

I think this last one from the Daily Mail is probably closest to my reaction to the book – ‘A book to make you think, laugh, and ultimately cheer – the perfect holiday read’, except it didn’t make me laugh or cheer. But it did make me think.

It’s set in an English village and at times I could imagine it was during the 1950s when in reality it’s set in the present day. Major Pettigrew is a retired army officer, living on his own after his wife had died six years earlier. The death of his younger brother knocks him for six and he finds himself attracted to Mrs Ali, the owner of the village shop whose husband had also died not long before. Their friendship deepens much to the concern of his family and friends.

What follows is a story about the difficulties of cultural differences, colonialism, racial prejudice, and class snobbery. It’s also about family relationships – the attitude of young people towards the older generation and also about love and friendship. It’s an enjoyable book even though I thought there were too many sub-plots, one or more verging on the ridiculous (the duck hunt is one example), and too many stereotypes.The Major and Mrs Ali stand out as believable characters.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was Helen Simonson’s debut novel. Her second is The Summer Before the War, set in 1914 and I have the e-book edition waiting to be read on my Kindle.

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; First Edition edition (4 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809556
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My Rating: 3.5*

Amazon UK link
Amazon US link

My Friday Post: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This morning I have just started to read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

It begins:

Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother’s wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘We may have to be a bit more bound by the rule book these days, but you can be sure that Tewkesbury and Teale will always try to do the best for you.’ The Major thought that perhaps after all this was settled he would do as he should have done in the first place and find himself another solicitor.

Description (Amazon):

Major Ernest Pettigrew is perfectly content to lead a quiet life in the 
sleepy village of Edgecombe St Mary, away from the meddling of the 
locals and his overbearing son. But when his brother dies, the Major 
finds himself seeking companionship with the village shopkeeper, Mrs 
Ali. Drawn together by a love of books and the loss of their partners, 
they are soon forced to contend with irate relatives and gossiping 
villagers. The perfect gentleman, but the most unlikely hero, the Major 
must ask himself what matters most: family obligation, tradition or 

Funny, comforting and heart-warming, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand proves that sometimes, against all odds, life does give you a second chance.


A change for me from crime fiction and historical fiction, I’m hoping this will be a good choice.

What do you think? Have you read it – or are you planning to read it?