1. Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2010: In her witty and wise debut novel, newcomer Helen Simonson introduces the unforgettable character of the widower Major Ernest Pettigrew. The Major epitomizes the Englishman with the "stiff upper lip," who clings to traditional values and has tried (in vain) to pass these along to his yuppie son, Roger. The story centers around Pettigrew's fight to keep his greedy relatives (including his son) from selling a valuable family heirloom--a pair of hunting rifles that symbolizes much of what he stands for, or at least what he thinks he does. The embattled hero discovers an unexpected ally and source of consolation in his neighbor, the Pakistani shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. On the surface, Pettigrew and Ali's backgrounds and life experiences couldn't be more different, but they discover that they have the most important things in common. This wry, yet optimistic comedy of manners with a romantic twist will appeal to grown-up readers of both sexes. Kudos to Helen Simonson, who distinguishes herself with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as a writer with the narrative range, stylistic chops, and poise of a veteran. --Lauren Nemroff
2. From Publishers Weekly In her charming debut novel, Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride. As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys' father split between them, but which Bertie's widow doesn't want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition's sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum. As he frets over the guns, the major's friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author's dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major's beloved firearms. This is a vastly enjoyable traipse through the English countryside and the long-held traditions of the British aristocracy. (Mar.)
3. This is by no means "chick lit", nor is it hard-hitting politically correct narrative, couched in fiction. It is a charming English comedy of manners -- in places, a laugh-out-loud comedy. A scene, for example, where the atrocities of Pakistani Partition are reduced to a bad-taste dinner show or where the favored ducks of schoolchildren are chosen as prey for a duck hunt are satirical and spot-on.
Yet despite its gentle humor, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand touches on many of the big issues: the clash of culture and religions, the greed of unbridaled globalization, the tension between fathers and sons...and families in general. At its heart, though, it is an old-fashioned love story. I couldn't help but stand by the sidelines rooting for the Major and his lady and keep my fingers crossed for their eventual coupling. The book is an ode for anyone who refuses to give up on life or love at any stage of life. For those who love the charm of the "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", you're in for yet another treat. Jill - Chicago
Click link for interview with the author and a reading: http://helensimonson.com/tea_and_conversation/videos/
Author's Website: http://helensimonson.com/