Major is thoroughly English but not thoroughly modern
by Lynn Lofton
Published: February 22,2013
Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) lives in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside. He is a man after my own heart. He is courtly — a word not used much anymore — witty, opinionated, intelligent and endearing. His humor is the dry British style of humor that often has a bite to it.
The good major is content to live quietly in his centuries old home, valuing the proper things Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea. He is bewildered by technology, the erosion of traditional manners and his son’s lifestyle. For instance, he winces when introduced to his son’s American girl friend who immediately calls him Ernest. “Actually, it’s Major,” he replies. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you will enjoy reading about Major Pettigrew and the turn of events that change his life.
The major lives alone after the death of his wife of many years, thinking he will face the vagaries of old age in solitude. The death of his brother forces him to face some difficult family relationships that include bad feelings about an inheritance. An unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper in the village, is strengthened by their sharing of the loss of their spouses and their love of literature. This friendship is deemed unsuitable by long time friends and neighbors in the village and the major’s son.
There are several themes — growing older, invasive and changing technology, societal pressure, and the dismissive attitude of adult children toward parents finding love — and all are handled with charm, humor and good storytelling.
“Delightful… lots of books try to evoke Jane Austen, but Simonson nails the genteel British comedy of manners with elegant aplomb,” says The Christian Science Monitor.
Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, has lived in America 20 years, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is her first novel.
— Lynn Lofton, firstname.lastname@example.org
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