Top 10 Books of 2020: Number 5

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

While a lot of the books on my 2020 list were released last year (a natural result of having a book club that reads new releases), this is not one of them. Our book club read Simonson’s other book The Summer Before the War back in 2019, and loved it. So, I picked up Major Pettigrew, and we read that collectively this past spring. While Summer was very good, I enjoyed Pettigrew much, much better. There are books that I pass on to friends because I read them and they’re interested in them, and there are books that I pass on because I thought they were that good and feel the need to evangelize them. This was the latter.

This book is about an older gentleman, Major Ernest Pettigrew, living a quiet and comfortable life in the English countryside. His brother dies, and Pettigrew’s comfortable life becomes upended. He’s forced to deal not only with his own mortality, but the time honored tradition of fighting over your loved one’s belongings and – dare I say it – falls in love.

Major Pettigrew is witty in that blustery old Englishman way that I think you’ll either love or find incredibly dull. Obviously for me, it was the former. The story also deals with family traditions – when to dig in your heels, and when to let go – as well as tackling racism. Yet, while discussing these somewhat weighty issues, the book is humorous and light, and won’t keep you up at night worrying about the world.

For being a cute, delightful, and yet thoughtful novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand earns a blustery spot on my top 10 list.