- Mercy Sais
Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.
Major Pettigrew, a 68-year-old widower living in a small village in Sussex, England, can be rigid (and petty), but the twinkle in his eye refutes his traditional British values of keeping order and doing one’s duty. He keeps a stiff upper lip as he tries to keep the village in line and attempts to pass on the proper rules of behavior to his yuppy grown son.
The plot is simple: The Major, who has just lost his brother, is blindsided by loneliness and loss and is rescued by his charming Jasmina Ali, a 50-something Pakistani widow. They find mutual interests in Kipling and belief in doing the right thing, but both must face their own and their cultures’ prejudices and the gossip of small village life. They both grow and find love in their later years. They might have lost a few battles and made some mistakes, but the war is won.