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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Random House, New York, 2010          358 pages

"If we just keep dividing things up, each generation more people demanding their share of the goodies, it just all vanishes as if it never mattered."     ~ Major Pettigrew

From Publishers Weekly:
In her charming debut novel, Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride. As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys' father split between them, but which Bertie's widow doesn't want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition's sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum. As he frets over the guns, the major's friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author's dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major's beloved firearms. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy.

My Ponderings:
     This is such a charming novel filled with endearing characters. Although it is a love story at root, it deals with a number of themes-- consumerism, the generation gap, dealing with loss, aging, family dynamics, the classes, and how one defines success.
     Major Pettigrew is an instantly likeable character and you will likely find yourself cheering him on as he promotes his view of good, old-fashioned values and manners and tries to find love for a second time with the enchanting Mrs. Ali. The world has changed dramatically throughout his lifetime, but Major Pettigrew has found a way to stay centered and keep focused on the greater outcome.
     The Churchill guns that were gifted to Major Pettigrew and his brother, Bertie, from their father, are inanimate characters within the sequence of events that unfold throughout the novel. Each brother was given a gun upon their father's passing and the pair of guns were to be united to the last living brother. Following Bertie's death, Major Pettigrew is eager to receive the second Churchill gun but Bertie's wife, as well as their daughter and Roger, the Major's son, have their own ideas of preservation. In the end, the Major learns that it was the not the gun that he should have coveted throughout the years, but a stronger relationship with his brother.
     The author paints a beautiful landscape for the characters to come to life in
the quaint town of Edgecome St. Mary in Sussex, England. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a reminder to hold tight to all that you find dear. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea, and enter into the English countryside through this delightful book.

"The world is full of small ignorances...We must all do our best to ignore them and thereby keep them small, don't you think?"   ~Mrs. Ali

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

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