Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

A friend of mine sent this book to me in a care package from America to cheer me up. In her note she said, “This is a really cute book.” So true. And so what I needed at the time.photo-3

I’ve recently had some unexpected health issues, making the past few months not the most pleasant of my life. Last week I headed to Guangzhou, China, a couple of hours from my home, for a checkup with the doctor. Feeling a little nervous about the appointment, I decided to take the Major with me and see if his “cute” story could take my mind off the coming visit. What a good decision! While I usually try to maintain a low profile on public transportation in China, in order to cut down on the number of people staring at the “wai-guo-ren” (foreigner), I couldn’t help but smile and laugh out loud repeatedly on the bus, subway, and train. Public transportation in China is convenient, but often complicated.

Helen Simonson has crafted Major Pettigrew as a warmhearted, traditional English gentleman (one of the last of his breed). In a world that’s rushing toward the 21st century desires of self importance and progress/profit, he holds on to chivalry, decorum, and the respect of the past. But beneath the surface are more layers of the Major’s character that repeatedly surprised me. I particularly enjoyed his sassy sarcasm regarding his son’s behavior, the ladies of the gold club, and Americans in general. Sarcasm so tastefully combined with candor and love creates quite the delightful result, causing my unexpected bursts of laughter that I’m sure the other passengers found rather amusing.

At its most basic level, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a love story, but it addresses so much more than the love of lovers. This book is about family love and development, respect for other races, love of homeland and tradition, and love of life with all its blessings. Through its many twists and turns, Major Pettigrew displays how even a sassy but sincere elderly widower can defy the norm and make room for an unexpected chance at love.

So, next time you’re in the mood for a “cute” book to bring a smile and laugh to your lips, pick this up and find a bus/train/subway to ride on. You’ll be entertained yourself and provide some interesting people-watching opportunities for your fellow passengers.

Pages: 355   FoA pages: 32,868

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