It was a great treat for me to finally discover Helen Simonson’s debut novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I have read overwhelmingly positive reviews of this book and I am now prepared to add another to the collection. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is at its best when recounting the saga between the 68-year-old Major Ernest Pettigrew, a polished English gentleman, and the 58-year-old Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the hamlet Edgecombe St. Mary’s Pakistani convenience store owner. Complementing the love story is a rich cast of characters and an elegant style of writing that will surely keep readers loving this book for years to come.
Reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand one truly begins to understand the agelessness of the capacity to love. Due to both Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali’s advanced age as well as the fact that each has lost a spouse, both the Pettigrew and Ali clans have relegated their elders to lives consisting of nothing more than golf and knitting. However, through a shared love of reading (the work of Kipling gets more than a few nods) and the willingness look past one’s ancestry Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali find themselves surprised at their ability to enter into a passionate relationship again.
In addition to its wonderful love story, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand poses an interesting question: in terms of personal character, what do we pass on to the next generation, and what was previously passed down to us? Weaving in and out of Major Pettigrew’s life is Roger, the Major’s petulant, career-driven son. As Roger’s enterprising ambition leads to the destruction of his relationship with his girlfriend Sandy, the Major questions his dispassionate method of raising his son. As Roger’s behavior becomes increasingly abhorrent, Major Pettigrew fears that he is the reason his son is seemingly incapable of an unselfish act. However, as the novel rushes toward its conclusion, Major Pettigrew optimistically concludes that more often than not, it is one’s more honorable traits that ultimately influence the next generation.
Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a triumph of a debut. I very much look forward to keeping up with the author and her forthcoming work!