Major Ernest Pettigrew, of Edgecombe St. Mary, has just lost his only brother. The retired army man’s wife also died a few years back, and now he is left with just his son, Roger, who works in finance in London and seems to get in touch mainly when he needs something. Even in the case of his uncle’s death, Roger doesn’t make it a priority to get to the funeral — but he and his cousin have one common item at the top of their to-do list: selling the pair of quite valuable Churchill guns that the Major and his brother owned.
The death of his brother and the issue of how to reunite and keep the heirloom guns in the family interrupts the simple, orderly life that Major Pettigrew has been living for some time. Add in his burgeoning friendship with the widowed Pakistani woman who runs the village grocery store, and the Major is quite thrown for a loop. He is of the old school of British gentlemen, and trying to navigate changing times and manners with honor and kindness is proving to be a great deal of work lately. He is particularly challenged when he discovers how his peers are reacting to this friendship he has with the lovely and fascinating Mrs. Ali, but he cannot give her up; she has breathed fresh air back into his stagnant life.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful comedy of manners, a tale of cultures clashing in modern small-town England, where the nobility still demand respect, even though their estates are dwindling and being carved up into smaller plots of land for housing developments, and ladies in service clubs still love to wag their tongues. The novel is chock full of eccentric characters, and their interactions can often seem all too uncomfortably familiar. For no matter where we are, people are people, and families and small towns will always be the same. Helen Simonson manages to weave together humor, heartache and reality with a light touch in her debut novel, deftly capturing life in a small English village with all of its unique characteristics while at the same time presenting a story and characters that ring true anywhere.
Rated: Mild, for some mild language and a few uses of more moderate language, and some very mild sexual references.