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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew book cover Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, 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 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 regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
Random House Trade Paperbacks (2011)

Book Club Party Ideas for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

The fact that he was an Englishman and she was Pakistani caused some of the conflict in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. The decorations could be a blending of these two cultures. I used my formal tea set and the shawl from my sari as a tablecloth. (The more traditional dress of Pakistan is the shalwar (or salwar) kameez, but saris are still worn to formal functions).

Sari, tea cups

The sitar and a harp were musical instruments that were in the novel. The two albums below had numerous rave reviews. Click on the pictures for more information and to purchase the music.

Sitar music Indian music

Book Club Menu for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

A menu for a book club party for Major Pettigrew could be composed of Pakistani and English food. For Pakistani food you could serve Chapati, Chana Dal, Biryani and Roasted Chicken with Tomato Yogurt Sauce.

Indian, Pakistani soup Pakistan Recipes, roast chicken, yogurt, tomatoes

A dessert that was mentioned in the book was Madeira Cake. This English treat, named after the wine that often accompanied it, is an English sponge cake flavored with lemon. This can be served with tea, which Mrs. Ali likes with lemon, a mint leaf and a rather embarrassing amount of sugar.

madeira cake, english lemon sponge cake, tea

English Mint Bar When hunting, the Major brought a foil wrapped bar of Kendal Mint Cake, his trademark snack at all the shoots he attended. You can buy these bars of mint-oil flavored compressed sugar from Amazon.

Book Club Resources for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.86 stars ( 95,096 ratings)
Amazon: 4.3 stars (1,778 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.97 stars (1,688 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars. There isn’t a lot of suspense or action in this book, but the humor and writing style kept me reading. The Major and Mrs. Ali were both very well-developed characters that had me smiling throughout the novel.

Discussion Questions for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

  1. How does the title relate to the events in the book?
  2. What brings Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali together? How did the other townspeople view their relationship?
  3. How does religion play a role in this book?
  4. In this book, we are introduced to the families of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali. How are the interactions with their family members different? How are they similar?
  5. How would you describe the Major’s relationship with his son?
  6. How did Major Pettigrew change over the course of the novel? How did his attitude towards the guns change over the course of the novel?
  7. This book is described as a comedy of manners and has been compared to works by Jane Austen. Would you agree?

Purchase Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand at your favorite bookseller

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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 and former travel advertising executive, she 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.

Awards for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner 2010 Indie Next
  • Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: March 2010
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction, Debut Author (2010)

Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…

This book has so many well-written and humorous quotes. Here are a few of my favorites:

It was as an old story so rubbed with retelling that the edges were blurry.

….with the sweeping certainty reserved for the ignorant.

When Mrs Ali’s nephew was over, the Major’s son brought pates, hams and other pig-related products. Abdul Wahid said “I barely escaped the kitchen with my faith”

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