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Helen Simonson is an Englishwoman who spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex, near Rye. A graduate of the London School of Economics, she recently completed an MFA at Stony Brook Southampton. Her short stories and essays have been featured in various publications and broadcast on radio. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, New York, Helen is currently living in the Washington D.C. area with her husband and two sons. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is her first novel.
Photo credit: Nina Subin
Despite the title – The Summer Before the War – which this terrific novel does indeed trace, it also spills into the horrors of the war years and eventually releases us back into some sort of very different peace. Set mostly in pretty coastal Rye, full of the strictures of Edwardian Society, it is evocative and very moving, highlight the prejudices and injustices of the early 20th Century. Agatha, whose husband is in the Foreign Office, is campaigning for a woman to replace the Latin Master in the local Grammar School. A group of Belgian refugees arrive, splitting the opinions of the community, then the new Latin Mistress befriends an old Gypsy’s grandson seeing his potential and wanting to school him for a scholarship. War arrives and the author powerfully highlights the ignorance, stupidity and insensitivity of those in command against the resilience and courage of the ordinary soldiers. It is heartbreaking, beautifully written and well researched. An excellent read. One of our Books of the Year 2016.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Despite the title – The Summer Before the War – which this terrific novel does indeed trace, it also spills into the horrors of the war years and eventually releases us back into some sort of very different peace. Set mostly in pretty coastal Rye, full of the strictures of Edwardian Society, it is evocative and very moving, highlight the prejudices and injustices of the early 20th Century. Agatha, whose husband is in the Foreign Office, is campaigning for a woman to replace the Latin Master in the local Grammar School. A group of Belgian refugees arrive, splitting the opinions of the community, then the new Latin Mistress befriends an old Gypsy’s grandson seeing his potential and wanting to school him for a scholarship. War arrives and the author powerfully highlights the ignorance, stupidity and insensitivity of those in command against the resilience and courage of the ordinary soldiers. It is heartbreaking, beautifully written and well researched. An excellent read. April 2016 Book of the Month.
An enchanting, humorous and heart-warming novel set in an English village. Written with sharp perception and a delightfully dry sense of humour, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a heart warming love story with a cast of unforgettable characters that questions how much one should sacrifice personal happiness for the obligations of family and tradition.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER *;';A novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal . . . a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community.'The Washington PostThe bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set.NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYTHE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England's brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha's husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won't come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinkingand attractivethan anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha's reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war. Praise for The Summer Before the War ';What begins as a study of a small-town society becomes a compelling account of war and its aftermath.'Woman's Day ';This witty character study of how a small English town reacts to the 1914 arrival of its first female teacher offers gentle humor wrapped in a hauntingly detailed story.'Good Housekeeping ';Perfect for readers in a postDownton Abbey slump . . . The gently teasing banter between two kindred spirits edging slowly into love is as delicately crafted as a bone-china teacup. . . . More than a high-toned romantic reverie for Anglophilesthough it serves the latter purpose, too.'The Seattle Times ';[Helen Simonson's] characters are so vivid, it's as if a PBS series has come to life. There's scandal, star-crossed love and fear, but at its heart, The Summer Before the War is about loyalty, love and family.'AARP: The Magazine ';This luminous story of a family, a town, and a world in their final moments of innocence is as lingering and lovely as a long summer sunset.'Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ';Simonson is like a Jane Austen for our day and ageshe is that goodand The Summer Before the War is nothing short of a treasure.'Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
Ernest Pettigrew, ob seiner militarischen Vergangenheit von allen nur 'Major' genannt, ist Brite durch und durch und pflegt Probleme jedweder Art mit einer guten Tasse Tee zu behandeln. Als der Witwer nun auch noch den Tod seines Bruders zu betrauern hat, ruckt sein zuruckgezogenes Leben ins Zentrum des dorflichen Interesses - wie unpassend, dass er sich gerade jetzt mit der pakistanischen Ladenbesitzerin Mrs. Ali anfreundet.
You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? From the Hardcover edition.
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