Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
by Helen Simonson, Random House , 2010
Reviewed by Richard J. McGowan
I put off reading Major Pettigrew's Last
Stand since it looked like a mere romance novel.
That was a mistake.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a very well written, uplifting,
seriously funny book, especially for people of a certain age (mine)
and sensibility (guilty again). It is a measure of Ms. Simonson's
skill that halfway through the book, I could not recall the major's
The major, retired, lives in a traditional English village,
which suits Major Pettigrew, a formal-dare I say 'starchy'?-older
gentleman kept just this side of curmudgeon territory by his
rigorous, civilized restraint. Like the village, Major Pettigrew is
set in his ways, so, like the village, change is difficult.
In a moment of grief, the Major encounters the local shopkeeper,
the elegant, dignified Mrs. Ali, Pakistani descent, and a widower,
too. Her gentle comfort of the grieving major portends romance.
Their relationship, however, upsets others in the tidy, proper
village and upsets their families, including the major's
self-absorbed son and the Major's newly widowed sister-in-law. Mrs.
Ali must contend with her husband's brother, now the family
patriarch from a rigidly enforced, chauvinistic culture.
How can love overcome such diversity?
Helen Simonson has created wonderful characters and while many
appear to be stereotypes, the comic situations thrust upon them by
her deft pen--I mean keyboard-- and the major's barbed observations
of modern life are anything but stereotypical. This delightful book
should be read attentively for its excellent detail and hilarious
'throw-away' lines. It was a joy.
- Richard McGowan is Instructor of Business Ethics at Butler