Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

I don’t know where and when I saw this book first, but I was immediately drawn to it. Probably because of the colourful cover and McCall Smith’s quote underneath the title: ‘A beautiful little love story’. I didn’t expect a classic or haute littérature at all, just a pleasantly written and very British romance. It was exactly that, or – in the words of Sophie Dahl – ‘a quirky, lovely novel’.


First sentence:

Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother’s wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.

The world of fiction isn’t divided between good and bad books, between a literary tour de force and pulp or poetic language and a good read. There’s a range of genres, languages and tastes. I wouldn’t consider this book great literature in the sense that it will survive hundreds of years and will still be found enjoyable or worth reading, but it’s ‘great’ literature in the sense that it was entertaining, sweet and charming.


I read this book in a few days, reading some hours here and there, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It reminded me somewhat of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2009) by Jonas Jonasson as this book’s main character is an elder man whose life is about to change. Just like The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, this book is also about a love of books, reading in general and a decent cup of tea. To this Helen Simonson added multiculturalism, wit, British humour and some hilarious dialogues.

Helen Simonson
Helen Simonson (source).

He had always assumed gossip to be the malicious whispering of uncomfortable truths, not the fabrication of absurdities.

Major Pettigrew is charming and an English gentleman from top to toe. His love for tradition, exquisite manners and family is shaken when his acquaintance with the widowed Mrs. Ali is turning into friendship. She seems to be able to fill the void his brother left behind after his recent death and he makes her laugh again. Their lunches and afternoon teas are soon to be the subject of every gossip and Major Pettigrew does not know how to handle this sudden change of events. On top of that, he has difficulties with his workaholic son and his new American (!) girlfriend.


Simonson’s writing is pleasant, the story charming and the characters lovable. So do you love British wit? And did you enjoy the above-mentioned books? Then you’ll certainly like this one as well! Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is available at

Have you read any books by Helen Simonson?


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