Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, author Helen Simonson’s wry, perceptive debut novel about love, the British class system, and family obligations, genially unfolds amid a quaint, leafy English village, tweedy and provincial as any Miss Marple mystery, drafty vicarage and all. Edgecombe St. Mary is home to retired widower Major Ernest Pettigrew, a courtly, roguish martinet whose predictable daily order cracks when he loses his heart to Mrs. Ali, a genteel local Pakistani shopkeeper with “crisp enunciation”, who shares both his devotion to Kipling and the loss of a cherished spouse.
As narrated by Peter Altschuler, 68-year-old Major Pettigrew is a snippy educated snob with a posh accent and sentimental streak. Altschuler inhabits the Major as a man who telegraphs disappointment in Roger, his drippy banker son, through throat-clearings and stutters. But it’s his reading of complicated Mrs. Ali that truly elevates this book. Altschuler articulates her quiet, ruminating spirit and cautious nature by slowing down his own conversational flow. There is deliberateness and intimacy to Mrs. Ali reflected in her low, melodious speech and tinkling laughter. Her insecurities and droll humor sand down the Major’s prickliness and humanize his peevishness. Mrs. Ali, it turns out, is as funny and flawed as the rest of us.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is wistful and rolling, only gradually revealing the origins of blemishes in one’s family life. Roger’s social climbing, hinted at by Altschuler through his slick use of his father, gives way to a more nuanced explanation of the son’s ambition. And when the Major compares Mrs. Ali to other village dames, noting that she’s “a butterfly to their scuffle of pigeons”, you get the sense that Major Pettigrew, crusty, old soul, is meant to bust out flowery paeans to Mrs. Ali, off-key, certainly, but authentic, nonetheless. Nita Rao
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?
©2010 Helen Simonson (P)2010 Random House
Satisfying in every way; characters you care about, current themes addressed with adroit storytelling. Loved every page.
Charming story told from the perspective of a very human, old-fashioned English gentleman who is adapting to modern society. Excellent reader. Easy to listen to and hard to ignore as you get involved in these characters.
I just loved this book and could not stop listening. There was action, suspense, and romance in the book. The narrator was able to make each character and individual and come alive.
It might have enjoyed this book more had I read it as opposed to listening to it.I really did not enjoy the "brittish" narrator at all. The story line is a slow starter and truthfully, I finally just ended up putting it down. Too bad!
A great listen - well worth your time. The narrator made it fun to listen to. The author made me feel like I was right there in the village of Edgecombe watching the entire amusing story unfold. If you are an elderly parent with a child who is trying to control you, you will especially enjoy this book. I loved it because I spent a lot of time in England and can relate to so many aspects of the story. If you enjoy politically incorrect humor, then you will love this book.
Really satisfying. Not all that much happens, but the story is good and you will sympathize with the characters. I didnt want it to be over. If you love modern british fiction, this book is for you.
I love the English sensibilities of this story. The rather stuffy Major who realizes that the attractive Pakistani shopkeeper in his neighborhood is a kindred spirit. The Major steps out of his comfort zone and is rewarded with an insight into other people's lives that are quite different than his own while also realizing that his own social circle is rather limiting and bigoted.
This book was mentioned at our book club recently but some had already read it. Not me so I thought I'd download it. I was not sure what to expect. LOVE the british accents. I found the story to be very pleasurable and would highly recommend it. I appreciate the mixture of cultures and it was a good reminder that no family is perfect. Well done.
Colorful characters, British wit, and the indomitable Major make this an unforgettable story. Some of the scenes in the story still cause me to laugh out loud when I recall them. The duck hunt fiasco and the ludicrous club party scenes will remain in my memory for a long time. Major Pettigrew should become a classic.
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