Monday Mailbox/Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Monday Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted in November by Knitting and Sundries. Anyone can play along. Just leave a link to your MM at the hosting blog and follow the links to other blogs to see what books are finding their way to mailboxes around the world. Caveat: participation in MM can cause your tbr list to grow exponentially. *Penguin at mailbox, a copyrighted image, is used with permission from Club Penguin.*
Only one book showed up last week but what a wonderful book it is! I started it Saturday and finished up the few remaining pages yesterday. I so hated to see it end! The title is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand , a British comedy of manners and romance by Helen Simonson.
Major Pettigrew, a somewhat fussy and old-fashioned pedantic widower, finds himself in a world that has lost it's sense of decorum and appropriate behavior and he doesn't like it one little bit. He still lives in his own little world of responsible behavior living the way generations of Englishmen have done in the past with a sense of duty to family and country. So when his brother dies suddenly and Major Pettigrew is on the receiving end of a small act of kindness by the local shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali, his world is turned upside down.
Mrs. Ali not only shares his grief at the loss of a beloved spouse but the love of classic books, especially Kipling's works. She is also a woman who holds duty and responsibility to family in the highest regard. Realizing how lonely he has been since his wife Nancy died, Major Pettigrew seems to relax a little bit in Mrs. Ali's company. The two embark upon a friendship that soon blossoms into more much to the chagrin of the surrounding neighborhood and the local golf club. Even their own families have their share of doubts about a relationship at their age; never mind their cultural differences. The Major and Mrs. Ali finally concede they are not ready to be put on a shelf to just live out the rest of their lives alone. Behaving a little out of character for these two sensible people, some decisive action is called for and what a delightful story ensues!
Here's just one of my favorite quotes:
"Careful, careful," he said, feeling a splash of scalding tea on his wrist. "Passion is all very well, but it wouldn't do to spill the tea."
Oh, heaven forbid!
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is one of the most charming first novels I've read in a long time. I'm not really sure what I expected, but what I found was a comedy of manners filled with characters who felt so real to me it's as if I know them in real life. Simonson vividly brings the retired Major Ernest Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali to life on the pages and she does so with realistic dialogue and quite a bit of quiet humor. The Major's changing and sometimes strained relationship with his ambitious adult son, Roger, is an added bonus to the plot. I truly enjoyed my little sojourn in the British village of Edgecombe St. Mary and hope to get a chance to visit there again. Ms. Simonson, please give us more!
Highly recommended 4.5****
Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Random House through GoodReads.