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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Pettigrew's hidden depths... a cracking read!
I don't think I will be alone in thinking that this novel is really exceptionally good. Three stars? Four stars? What are you thinking, people?! Major Pettigrew's Last Stand definitely deserves the full five stars in my book. I did not expect to like it as much as I did, but I found it very readable and hard to put down. Despite the fact that it is very readable and...
Published on 26 Feb 2010 by Gabrielle O

versus
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
I have mixed feelings about this book, and am finding it hard to properly review it. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, but I found it a bit too twee for my liking and it was bordering on tedious in the middle. The book started really well, and I thought I was going to love it, but I felt it lost its way a bit. Does anybody really live like the people in the book...
Published on 15 Mar 2010 by Nicola in South Yorkshire


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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major Pettigrew's hidden depths... a cracking read!, 26 Feb 2010
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I don't think I will be alone in thinking that this novel is really exceptionally good. Three stars? Four stars? What are you thinking, people?! Major Pettigrew's Last Stand definitely deserves the full five stars in my book. I did not expect to like it as much as I did, but I found it very readable and hard to put down. Despite the fact that it is very readable and engaging, I do think there is quite a bit of substance to the novel.

Yes, this book is essentially a romantic comedy (there are the requisite smushy bits and hilarious bits). And it is very readable (I couldn't put it down). But I felt there was a lot more to it than that. The main characters are senior citizens, and the setting is a small and picturesque English village. I am sure you can guess from the title that the main character is an elderly chap, Major Pettigrew. None of these things sound like ingredients for a gripping tale (though why shouldn't they be?) but they are. The Major is a decent sort, if old-fashioned - set in his ways and full of prejudices and preconceptions. In fact, he is practically emotionally crippled by his extreme politeness and sense of right and wrong, which is often founded on societal norms. The Major faces the world with a stiff upper lip and is almost comically conservative and set in his ways. Of course, it turns out that there is much more to him than this - and he discovers that there is much more to Mrs Ali, the Pakistani lady who runs the village shop. Drama ensues, but I won't spoil the plot for you by describing it. The Major is a classic case of a main character who I really didn't expect to like. Yet, when push comes to shove, the characteristics that make the Major rather irritating are the same ones that make him a wonderfully brave, likeable character who always tries to do the right thing in the face of adversity.

I thought this was just a brilliant read, and I've lent it to my best friend already. It's a very funny, thought-provoking and heart-warming look at old age, family, stereotypes, fitting in to society, and of course (most importantly!) love.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gentle Tale of Friendship and Love, 14 Nov 2010
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This is a very gentle tale of two widowed individuals who find friendship and then love later in life. It is slow-paced for the most part and that is part of its appeal.

The Major and Mrs Ali come from different cultural backgrounds but each has suffered the bereavement of losing their partner and the changing dynamics that occurred in their families as a result; Mrs Ali is facing family pressure to give up her shop in favour of her nephew, whilst Major Pettigrew is challenged by a son with high expectations of inheritance and who has few qualms about selling the family `silver'.

Helen Simonson skilfully weaves together the story of family tensions over possessions that hold value in the aftermath of bereavement with the story of a burgeoning affection between two individuals. It is the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday evening, curled up on the sofa in front of the fire.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, 15 Mar 2010
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Nicola in South Yorkshire "nicola_in_southyorks" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I have mixed feelings about this book, and am finding it hard to properly review it. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, but I found it a bit too twee for my liking and it was bordering on tedious in the middle. The book started really well, and I thought I was going to love it, but I felt it lost its way a bit. Does anybody really live like the people in the book? I could have believed it if it had been 50 or 60 years ago, but it did feel a little far-fetched.

The Major and Mrs Ali, as the main characters, are quite likeable. The other characters have little to recommend them really. I know some were not meant to be likeable, but I didn't really take to them in any way at all.

Who knows, perhaps it was just the wrong time for me to read this book, and if I give it another go in the future I might be along to change my review! For the time being, I've given it 3 stars which, according to Amazon, means it's ok, and that's just what I felt it was.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not credible, 23 Jun 2011
This review is from: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Paperback)
I am not familiar with a credible attitude to life of ex-military men in England and - English not being my mother-tongue - flaws like using "cilantro" or "drapes" don't catch my attention, but I wondered right from the beginning of the novel whether the main character, the Major, could really be 68 years old??? Through the whole book I pictured him as 80 at least and as such not credible at all in his role.
That's why I looked at the reviews here and I am truly amazed: the Major seems to be a credible description for most British readers for a 68 year old man in today's England. Wow!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enid Blyton for grown-ups!, 9 Mar 2010
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Peter R (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
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Set in a traditional English village in East Sussex, this sweet story is a surprising page turner.

The book primarily explores the relationship between a widower (Pettigrew) and a widow (Mrs Ali). It is essentially all about clashes - whether it is about the two cultures gracefully bumbling towards a relationship despite the hurdles, the sub-plots of a class and social divide in the village or the self-indulgent complex lives of next generations of both these families.

The characters are well fleshed out and the essence and drama of English village life comes through the chapters vividly. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow, slow... zzzzzzzzzz, 28 Jun 2012
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UK Couple - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Paperback)
A quote on the front cover of this book describes Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as "slow-burning" and on the back cover as "funny". I can confirm that Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is very very slow - I read a third of the book and gave up because it was so boring! - and is definitely NOT funny - the pages that I read caused me to chuckle just once! Also, according to the info about the author in the book, Helen Simonson has a Masters in Creative Writing and it shows. I am an educated woman but even I struggled with some of the words she used - I had to look them up in the dictionary! I was really looking forward to this book, especially as it got good reviews on Amazon, but what a major disappointment!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to cheer you up, 3 Jun 2010
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Claretta (London, England) - See all my reviews
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I read this when I was ill in bed and it was the best kind of medicine - charming, well-written and engrossing. A lovely feel-good read. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A promising story but sloppy writing and unconvincing, 6 May 2011
This review is from: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Paperback)
Like many I thought I was going to love this book, but was sorely disappointed. It feels like a first draft from an admittedly promising writer, and needs - but never apparently got - extensive editing. The acknowledgements show that it emerged from a writing class in New York's Bronx, but the British author seems to have quickly forgotten what Britain is like, and how we speak.
The protagonist, Major Pettigrew is the kind of stereotypical Colonel Blimp who probably ceased to exist in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Yet we are told he is only 68. There is a yawning chasm in his military 'backstory'. This is someone who would have served in Northern Ireland, may have been in the Falklands, and perhaps Aden. These are always formative, often searing, experiences and we learn nothing about them. Mrs Ali, by contrast, and indeed the entirety of the Asian characters were better drawn and more believable.
However, the over-riding problem here is of authorial voice. We inhabit the point of view of Major Pettigrew pretty much throughout, and his supposed Englishness is the cornerstone of the book. Yet the narrative is dotted with jarring Americanisms that he (at least) would never have used, and which destroy our confidence in seeing the world through his eyes. Just a few examples of many dozens: windshield (when it should be windscreen), baked goods (bread and cakes), shotgun shells (cartridges) real estate (property), cricket pants (trousers), cilantro (coriander), intersection (crossroads). There are phrases like: `sick to his stomach', `I figure' and `I guess', which are put in the mouths of supposedly English characters too. Did anyone at Bloomsbury actually copy edit this book? It doesn't look like it.
Finally there are some glaring factual errors, which just a little research would have rectified. There is reference to an avenue of elms, when in reality disease destroyed all mature elms in Britain around 30 years ago. At one point tea is offered in a mug and a few lines lower the recipent drinks from a cup. An elderly Asian lady is deported just a few days after attacking someone, when the legal procedures for such events always take months if not years. The Beachy Head suicide rescue team don't seem to mind the major brandishing a shotgun as he walks up to someone who is about to commit suicide. I just don't believe it. That it got a Richard & Judy award beggars belief.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars too long!, 25 Dec 2012
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This would have been the perfect short story. It has an interesting social slant but written as Britain seen from the States. It is a fanciful romp through society with chapters that are far too long.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant enough, 18 Mar 2010
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Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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An interesting novel in that it is a love story, but one about elderly people, not an age category you would usually associate with the genre. Simonson explores ageing, death, sexism, racism and religious intolerance in the confines of a small English village. I personally felt that the subject matter was shoe horned into the story with little regard for whether it fit or not, and that the story suffered because of the weight and variety of ideas she wanted to explore. I would have enjoyed it much more had it been more pared down and focused on one or maybe two of the frankly gigantic subjects she writes about.

I thought that the juxtaposition of the modern way of doing things and tradition was handled sensitively and in an interesting way, and I liked the characters.

I get the impression that Simonson felt rushed at the end of the book, with the many loose ends tied up far too neatly and in some areas with very little explanation. I cannot really expand on this without talking about spoilers, but I found parts of the ending over dramatic, totally unexpected and in some parts entirely frustrating (as in, why? Why would this person do this?)

I understand that Simonson is an Englishwoman currently residing in the USA, so I wonder why, in a novel that explores Englishness and tradition there are uses of the words intersection instead of crossroads, and cilantro instead of coriander, Americanisms that an Englishman would never use? There were only a few, but in such a carefully constructed social world, like the village the major inhabits, where nuance is everything, these little things really jarred.
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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (Paperback - 4 Jan 2011)
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