Sunday, April 11, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

by Helen Simonson
Random House, 2010.

Major Pettigrew, a sixty-eight-year-old retired widower from a small village in Sussex, England, learns that his brother died. While he is still in a fog from the news, his neighbor Mrs. Ali comes over and helps him out. She offers to drive him to the funeral, where he hopes to convince his brother's widow to give him the Churchill - one of pair that his father had divided between the two boys with the understanding that they would be passed on together to subsequent generations of the Pettigrew family. But Marjorie and her daughter seem much more interested in selling the pistols, much to Major Pettigrew's chagrin.

This charming story is less about the pistols than it is about an older man who looks back with fondness on the glory days of his youth and his country, as well as the friendships that he has in the village and his growing friendship with Mrs. Ali, the shopkeeper of Pakistani heritage. Major Pettigrew, Mrs. Ali, and the people of the village of Edgecombe St. Mary are so finely drawn that I truly hesitate to call them "characters" rather than "people." I grew to have a fondness for many of them, particularly the Major and Mrs. Ali, who each have very human flaws yet are so endearing that I truly enjoyed spending time with them.

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