Book review of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
As part of my 2015 Book Challenge – No. 6: Read a book by an author that you haven’t read before – I read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for over a year now, and am making good way on my new year effort to read as many books as possible in 2015 – I have read nearly 3 books this past month! And they are quite thick in number of pages too.
This delightful novel is about a love that kindles between two widowers – Major Ernest Pettigrew and Jasmina Ali – in their later years. Yes, it’s a love story between old people. The Major falls for Mrs Ali – owner and resident of the local corner shop – in the midst of the grief of losing his brother. Set in a quaint little village around Surrey in the late 90s (I am presuming this as the mention of the Internet is referred to as a mysterious and dubious entity), the story is written in beautiful Bronte-like prose and plays on (as well as unhinges) several modern stereotypes. Bonding over their love of books (specifically Kipling), family drama and various events that throw them together in the most unexpected circumstances, this book overcomes cultural barriers as well as emotional and ageist ones.
Simonson’s writing is gloriously easy-to-read and makes you giggle and feel all warm and fuzzy inside 🙄
. I loved the intellectual wit she imbued in the characters and the way she portrayed the fight against their innermost desires due to social decorum and expectations. She highlights pertinent issues such as class, race and history, which are set unequivocally aside in the face of love and mutual understanding between the main protagonists. I was pleasantly surprised by her knowledge of Indian colonial history – highlighting my own subjection to stereotyping – and loved this aspect of the story very much. It made me increasingly nostalgic about the time I spent studying about the History of South Asia in my third year at university. I remembered how obsessive I became with the paper – to the point it proved a detriment to all of the other subjects I was undertaking at the time. It felt good to be in the know though, you know? The link to Indian history is made due to the Major’s background – his father served as a soldier in colonial India – as well as Mrs Ali’s background, who is from Pakistan. The book shows that it is never too late to find love, follow your hearts desires and slap social norms in the face in the process of doing so. Kate Saunders states the book is “Gentle and charming, but these words can’t convey the slow-burning pleasure of this novel.” (The Times 20th February 2010) – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Suffice to say that the story has a happy ending and leaves a big grin on your face.
Note: this is definitely a book for the summer 🐱
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐