Summer '11 Reading Group List
“This is the perfect answer for a book group looking for charm, literacy, and humor. The story of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali and their their families in a middle-class English village will delight readers worn to the bone by the many angst-ridden and torturous family novels of today. Simonson offers a contemporary tale, but with a sensibility and sensitivity to the mores of a generation ago. Wonderful reading!”
— Marian Nielsen, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA
March 2010 Indie Next List
“In a comedy of manners that would make Jane Austen proud, a retired general and a widowed Pakistani women meet and court in an out-of-the-way English village. There is wit here, and cleverness, and a host of clear-eyed, stiff-lipped, curmudgeonly joys. Fans of British humor and storytelling must acquire this wryly funny love story.”
— Mark Bradshaw, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.
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 respective 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 her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
About the Author
Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics and former travel advertising executive, she has lived in America for the last two decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area. This is her first novel.
"In the noisy world of today it is a delight to find a novel that dares to assert itself quietly with the lovely rhythm of Helen Simonson's funny, comforting, and intelligent first novel—a modern day story of love which takes everyone, grown children, villagers, and the main participants, by surprise—as real love stories tend to do." —Elizabeth Strout
“I love this book. Courting curmudgeons, wayward sons, religion and race and real-estate in a petty and picturesque English village–Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is surprisingly, wonderfully romantic and fresh. Unsentimental, intelligent and warm, this endlessly amusing comedy of manners is the best first novel I’ve read in a long, long time.” —Cathleen Schine, author of The Love Letter and The New Yorkers
"This irresistibly delightful, thoughtful, and utterly charming and surprising novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro. In fact, it is Simonson's debut. One cannot wait to see what she does next."—Library Journal, starred review
"The real pleasure of this book derives . . . from its beautiful little love story, which is told with skill and humor. . . . That love can overcome cultural barriers is no new theme, but it is presented here with great sensitivity and delicacy. . . . As for happy endings, [the book] deserves all available prizes."–New York Times Book Review
"Funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling… As with the polished work of Alexander McCall Smith, there is never a dull moment but never a discordant note either…[the book’s] main characters are especially well drawn, and Ms. Simonson makes them as admirable as they are entertaining…It’s all about intelligence, heart, dignity and backbone. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has them all." – New York Times
"When depicted by the right storyteller, the thrill of falling in love is funnier and sweeter at 60 than at 16…With her crisp wit and gentle insight, Simonson is still far from her golden years…but somehow in her first novel she already knows just what delicious disruption romance can introduce to a well-settled life." –Washington Post