Feature

Novel of the week: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

The English village novel wasn’t calling out for modernizing, but Simonson pulls it off, said Alexander McCall Smith in The New York Times.

(Random House, $25)

“If the Masterpiece Theatre people aren’t already sending out casting calls” for the 68-year-old hero of Helen Simonson’s charming debut, they should be, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Retired army major Ernest Pettigrew sees himself as the lonely defender of proper behavior in his fast-changing English village, and “watching him hold to that rule even when he’s convinced that ‘everyone is a complete idiot’ is a constant source of comedy.” The English village novel wasn’t calling out for modernizing, but Simonson pulls it off, said Alexander McCall Smith in The New York Times. She even gets away with her cartoonish depiction of the collisions between Pettigrew’s small-minded neighbors and the forces of multiculturalism and 21st-century capitalism. But the book’s chief pleasure is its “beautiful little love story, which is told with skill and humor.” From the moment a courteous widow named “Mrs. Ali” shows up on Pettigrew’s doorstep, “we want this couple to find romance—and they do.”

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