Author: Helen Simonson
Provided Synopsis: When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?
Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful book that takes readers to a small English town. A widower of six years, the Major has found out at the book’s opening of the passing of his younger brother, Bertie. Grief overcomes him as he opens the door to his cottage home upon the knocking of the village shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali, and it is from this moment on that a friendship blossoms. The Major and Mrs. Ali are able to find common ground as they speak of the losses of their respective spouses, an appreciation of literature, and the growing ease of contentment they find in each others presence. As a book that looks into the relationships we form and maintain with others, I believe that Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali represent a future in which we come together to see people as people and not just based on the color of skin or background.
In addition, this book not only focuses on the main relationship but also on the activity of a small English town, leading me to see this book as a commentary and critique on the social aspect of our lives. There are townsfolk who are unaware (and sometimes completely aware) of how rude they come across in relation to other ethnicities. Due to the change of times and financial restrictions, there is the plan to sell a large family estate by a member of the peerage to create new luxury housing developments. There is a constant clash and struggle between the ideals and morals of the old generation versus the new generation, which is particularly shown in the relationship between the Major and his son. It is up to Major Pettigrew to consider and offer reader’s his own take on all that it is going on. It is also through the Major’s eyes that the author asks the reader to consider the restrictions we place on our own social lives. Do money and status drive us? Do we participate in a community, do we exclude others based upon judgements we have no right to make? There are so many things to think about while reading this book!
With characters who you will grow to love, dry humor in spades, and delight after delight, I really cannot recommend Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand enough. I truly hope this book will be made into a miniseries or a movie by the BBC or Masterpiece Theatre.