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
What a breath of fresh air! This is a wonderful "coming of age" story for those of us that are approaching retirement, recently retired, and find ourselves alone. Major Pettigrew is my new hero!
The author has written a touching romance about a widow and a widower. Her characters are so developed by her writing and the narrator's reading that you feel sure you know them. The beginning starts out slowly, just as romance does in real life, but ends with a bang that I felt was a bit over-the-top. A Disney ending. But I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a gentle read.
Most enjoyable novel about a stodgy, prim and proper Major Pettigrew, who is most definitely set in his ways. The "proper" way of life is like a code of excellence in everything he does and thinks. Yet, you can see him changing throughout the story through a variety of events, but mostly due to a female shopkeeper he meets. Preconceived notions in how he views life start to fray and at first he doesn't see this "change" in himself, but other people do. The story is full characters who are interesting and the narration by P. Altschuler is superb, as he brings the characters to life.
Major Pettigrew is one of the most delightful fictional characters to come along in a long time with his understated humor, honor and chivalry amidst the chaos going on around him. As others have stated, it takes a while for the story to warm up and to warm up to the narrator, but not too long. I was hoping that it would never end. Bravo!
Great characters (including the English countryside). The narration was pitch perfect, and so was everything about this beautiful little story. I put off reading for a while because I thought it might be boring from the description. The glowing reviews convinced me to plunge ahead. This book deserves all the praise that it has received.
Delighted listen... the story is so rich and believable and Simonson seems to transport the listener to
the Setting so you can be a part of the story, watching from a Bench by the sea maybe.
I highly recommend this read.
Absolutely wonderful characters and story. A few months after finishing I still feel like the characters are my friends and family. The Major is an inspiration to those of us a bit older, wiser, distant from our children and suddenly alone. I am still quoting words of wisdom from this story. I loved, loved, loved this book!
Like many others, at the start, I thought I may not like this book. But Major Pettigrew ripens with time into a delicious story.
This is due, in large part, to the exceptionally fine narration, which is one of the best I've listened to from Audible.
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.
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