Thursday, October 6, 2011

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

"Passion is all very well, but it wouldn't do to spill the tea." - Major Pettigrew
Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance 2011
Waverton Good Read Award 2011

About the Book

Major Ernest Pettigrew is perfectly content to lead a quiet life in the sleepy village of Edgecombe St Mary, away from the meddling of the locals and his overbearing son. But when his brother dies, the Major finds himself seeking companionship with the village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali. Drawn together by a love of books and the loss of their partners, they are soon forced to contend with irate relatives and gossiping villagers. The perfect gentleman, but the most unlikely hero, the Major must ask himself what matters most: family obligation, tradition or love?

Funny, comforting and heart-warming, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand proves that sometimes, against all odds, life does give you a second chance.

Published by: Bloomsbury


The perfect antidote to twirly typeface chick-lit stories.
I admit that I am hopelessly in love with the idea of living in an English village surrounded by eccentric characters who say things like “It wouldn’t do to spill the tea”, so I looked forward to reading this novel, Helen Simonson’s debut, and whiling away a few hours with something light and breezy.

The novel has characters you might well expect to find in a story set in a Sussex village: the old-school-values major, the ineffectual vicar, the slightly ridiculous lord of the manor, the fusspot women who see to the village’s social events. There’s also the major’s son – a vain, social-climbing London banker – crass, greedy in-laws from up north, a couple of Americans and a family of immigrant shopkeepers. While this may sound like a movie script for the usual cast of beloved English character actors (although it will be coming to the big screen soon), Simonson’s writing rescues the story, the characters and even the themes from becoming victims of farce or stereotype.

Yes, there are generous helpings of witty dialogue, wry observations and comical events, but the observations made in quieter, more serious moments are what lift this novel above ‘romantic comedy’. When I cried towards the end of the story (don’t worry, it does have a happy ending!) I realised what a brilliant job Helen Simonson had done.

This is a gentle, charming and captivating read. Improbable? Perhaps. Excessive at times? Maybe. Worth reading?


- Review by Melissa Davidson
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About the Author

Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive who has lived in America for the last two decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C. area. This is her first novel.

A big thanks to Keryn Wells, from Jonathan Ball Publishers, for the the proof copy!

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