Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew is a decent kind man who lives alone in a picture perfect old-fashioned little village in the south of England, his wife Nancy having passed away, and as the book begins we learn that he is enduring the sadness of another bereavement, as his brother Bertie suddenly passes away. Mrs Ali owns and runs the village shop, and happens to call on Major Pettigrew just as he has learned this sad news. A budding friendship, and perhaps more, begins to develop between these two, perhaps unlikely friends, and their relationship is at the heart of the novel. Additionally some of the other main themes are the battles and confrontations within families, the expectations of a certain upbringing and lifestyle, and sticking to ones duty or breaking away from convention. Also the ever-present threat of change to the countryside is touched upon with the character of Ferguson the American businessman who has big plans for the little village, and has bought a Lord's title in Scotland. 

This novel depicts an England of country villages, shooting with the Lord of the Manor on his estate, church on a Sunday, chats with the Vicar, in other words, a certain way of life familiar to some, but which would seem old fashioned and belonging to a different time to others. It would make for interesting discussion say for a book club, as to how realistic and relevant this view of England is, I would imagine. But at the same time the novel features multiculturalism, and it shows that romantic love can blossom anywhere, between anyone, and the author portrays negative and positive reactions amongst the other villagers to the Major and Mrs Ali. The Major's friend Grace argues that true, passionate love is what should be fought for and grasped in life, rather than a relationship that one has just settled for. The other romantic attachments such as those between the Major's son Roger and girlfriend Sandy, and Mrs Ali's nephew Abdul Wahid and girlfriend Amina serve to highlight how it can be difficult to maintain relationships that are not based on this, or for whom this is not enough. 

There is a sub plot regarding a pair of expensive guns left to Major Pettigrew and his brother by their father, and the claims as to the future ownership of these runs throughout the novel and is the cause of various incidents. I wasn't keen on the shooting episode and so on, just a person opinion because I don't like that sort of thing at all. 

There is a fair amount of humour in the novel too, in particular I found some of Mrs Ali's comments entertaining. I thought both Mrs Ali and Major Pettigrew were, on the whole, very likeable characters and I found myself cheering for them and for a happy conclusion. This is a nice, entertaining read, not very heavy or demanding, but with more depth than a light and fluffy book. I think I enjoyed this more than I thought I might.



  1. Glad you liked this one. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. I put it down. I should pick it back up.

  2. Hi Alison, thanks for your comment, I did like it, although I can understand you putting it down too, it would not be a particular favourite really.


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