Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

By Helen Simonson.

Msjor Pettigrew (army, retd., widower) lives in Edgecombe St Mary with half of a prized pair of Churchill sporting guns. When his brother Bertie dies, he hopes to reunite them, bequeathed separately to him and his brother by their father, but has to contend with his rapacious sister-in-law, Marjorie, and niece, Jemima, who want to sell them off; as does the Major’s own son, Roger, who is keen to get ahead in business through the sale of his father’s guns to a valuable client.

In the meantime, the Major strikes up a friendship with Mrs Ali (widowed), the village shopkeeper, with whom he reads Kipling and gets tangled up in the Golf Club’s annual dance, which is supposed to have a Mughal theme. He and Mrs Ali attend the dance, which doesn’t quite end as expected.

For a time, the course of true love encounters some ruts in the road to happiness.

There are various subplots, including Lord Dagenham’s attempt to make money out of his costly estate, and the relationship between the overly pious Abdul Wahid and Amina, who already have a son called George.

The book, as other reviews have noted, is slow to get going, and then putters along at no great pace. It is somewhat clichéd, with the Major being an Edwardian-style Sir Galahad, while his son, Roger, is a City oik with the inevitable American girlfriend; the members of the Ladies Committee all behave like clichés; the American property developer who owns an estate in Scotland is a cliché; and the members of the Pakistani community also behave like clichés.

While the book is well enough written, the style often feels staccato, with island sentences creating vignettes perhaps in a style reflecting Simonson’s job in the travel industry. There are also a few Americanisms such as the misspelling of “Maths”; and the editor should lose marks for letting the Major say “Here, here!” when he should be saying “Hear, hear!”

The book would appear to be aimed at the American market (which is where Simonson is based), hence the obligatory American characters, with a possible eye on Hollywood.