College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Liberal Arts Matters

Because Ideas Matter...

The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences presents

Recommended Readings

Major -Pettigrew Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

by Helen Simonson, Random House , 2010

Reviewed by Richard J. McGowan

I put off reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand since it looked like a mere romance novel.

That was a mistake.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a very well written, uplifting, seriously funny book, especially for people of a certain age (mine) and sensibility (guilty again). It is a measure of Ms. Simonson's skill that halfway through the book, I could not recall the major's first name.

The major, retired, lives in a traditional English village, which suits Major Pettigrew, a formal-dare I say 'starchy'?-older gentleman kept just this side of curmudgeon territory by his rigorous, civilized restraint. Like the village, Major Pettigrew is set in his ways, so, like the village, change is difficult.

In a moment of grief, the Major encounters the local shopkeeper, the elegant, dignified Mrs. Ali, Pakistani descent, and a widower, too. Her gentle comfort of the grieving major portends romance.

Their relationship, however, upsets others in the tidy, proper village and upsets their families, including the major's self-absorbed son and the Major's newly widowed sister-in-law. Mrs. Ali must contend with her husband's brother, now the family patriarch from a rigidly enforced, chauvinistic culture.

How can love overcome such diversity?

Helen Simonson has created wonderful characters and while many appear to be stereotypes, the comic situations thrust upon them by her deft pen--I mean keyboard-- and the major's barbed observations of modern life are anything but stereotypical. This delightful book should be read attentively for its excellent detail and hilarious 'throw-away' lines. It was a joy.

- Richard McGowan is Instructor of Business Ethics at Butler University.