Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

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Author: 
Simonson, Helen

You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family.

Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village.

Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more.

But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? (From the publisher.)

Genre: 
Discussion Guide: 

1. Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali have known one another for a time. What is it about this one moment, when he opens the door to her at the story's onset, that makes him fall in love with her?

2. How would you describe Major Pettigrew? In what way do we see him as "typically English"?

3. Reading and love of books play a defining role in how we are to perceive characters in this book. Talk about the differences in reading habits among Roger, Mrs. Ali, and Mr. Pettigrew.

4. How does Helen Simonson portray Americans in this novel? Is it a fair depiction...or over-drawn?

5. How are outsiders treated in this village...and who are considered outsiders?

6. Small mindedness is an underlying motif in this book. Who in the novel is small-minded? How does this parochialism lead to misunderstanding?

7. Talk about some of the book's humorous plot ingredients: the gun squabble, the aristocrat who loves to hunt, the golf club and its costume party tradition.

8. If you're a fan of English novels, especially the comedy of manners type, you will recognize Simonson's use of stock characters and set-up: a retired military man, a small quiet village, a local aristocrat, multiple misunderstandings. In what way does Simonson, while using these elements, create something deeper, more potent in Major Pettigrew's Last Stand?

(Questions by LitLovers)