A touching love story, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is also a wry and witty jibe at small village life in England. Major Pettigrew is a proper widower who leads a life of quiet and habit, comfortable in his village and local golf club. Still suffering from the loss of his wife, he has just learned about his brother’s death and he is so shaken by this that he has a dizzy spell. Mrs. Ali, the widow of a Pakistani grocery store owner, has come to his house collecting for charity and helps him recover. The two begin a friendship based around discussions of books.
Besides missing his brother and wife, Major Pettigrew has other worries. He is concerned about his son, who seems only interested in money and prestige, and at times lacks gentility and honor, for which Major Pettigrew cares deeply. He is also concerned about his brother’s greedy wife and daughter, who do not seem likely to honor his father’s request that two valuable heirloom shotguns given to each of the sons be reunited when one of them dies.
Mrs. Ali is having her own battle with relatives. Her husband’s family wants her to give over her store to her religious fundamentalist nephew while she takes her expected widow’s place as a family servant.
Major Pettigrew must navigate the murky waters of village and family disapproval of his relationship because of racism and class snobbery and decide how much he wants to keep his quiet life. Mrs. Ali must in turn decide how much duty she owes to her family.
This novel is charming and delightful, one of my favorite books of 2011. Major Pettigrew’s dry and clever comments amused me throughout. The novel is beautifully written. I have been eagerly waiting to see what Ms. Simonson does next.