Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I stumbled across this delightful book through my Goodreads recommendations and I managed to snag a copy from a nearby Value Village for a ridiculously great price.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a unique love story, primarily because of the ages of the main characters. Major Pettigrew, our protagonist, is 68 years old and Mrs. Ali, a woman who becomes an unexpected friend, is 58 years old.
Personally, other than the Mitford Series (Jan Karon), I have not read any other romantic books with older characters. Simonson, with her introduction of Major Pettigrew and the village of Edgecombe St. Mary, spins a whimsical and light novel about love and loss.
In an English village when the population is mainly Caucasian, Mrs. Ali stands alone at the shop owner and only Pakistani in the area, never mind the fact that she grew up in England. Simonson has the usual cast of characters: the well-meaning yet slightly racist old women who run the garden parties and rule the town, the dishevelled and absent minded vicar, the local Lord who owns the lands, the presumptuous and rich business man from America... Books that are based on small villages in England do tend to be the same.
That being said, the standard ensemble of characters did not take away from the book and I enjoyed it. I read the book in two days, as it was a simple read.
So, even though I DID enjoy the cute story of a widower falling slowly in love with an unlikely widow, I will admit that I was a bit disappointed by the pacing of the book.
For example: in the book descriptions I read, the novel describes the plot as the Major falling in love with Mrs. Ali and then facing the discrimination and antipathy from the village.
Unfortunately, that is not exactly an accurate depiction of what I read. Throughout the most of the book, Major Pettigrew struggles with his ever burgeoning feelings for Mrs. Ali and also with other family issues occurring on the side. It is not until the last two chapters that we actually see the two beginning their romantic relationship.
In essence, the disapproval of the villagers comes to it's prevalent head at a village dance, but even that is so fraught with other causes and issues. I felt as though Simonson was attempting to make their relationship fraught with angst, but...I think that plan fell flat.
My second tiny annoyance was part of the writing with regards to the Major. The novel spends it's time in his head, as he attempts to work out his issues and make decisions. However, the image that Simonson presents to us of the Major is a retired soldier, honourable and wise, careful to measure his words before speaking.
YET...when contemplating the unavoidable idiocy of his son, he thinks about "punching him in the face", which isn't consistent with the language Pettigrew uses throughout the novel.
So Simonson should probably have explored her character's colloquialisms a bit more completely.
Other than that, 4/5 stars for a gentle and easy read with endearing characters. I would definitely enjoy a follow up novel.
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