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
"Gem" is the right word to describe this wry and witty novel of manners. The narration was perfect--adding just the right tongue in cheek tone to the taught dialogue and musing of a group of unforgetable characters. A feel-good novel that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. I highly recommend it!
This is one of the best read books I've heard in a long time. The reader captures the voice of each
character perfectly. It is a delightful story which depicts perfectly the tradition bound Englishman
facing the current tide of change in his small village. His own metamorphisis is so gradual, he isn't aware of it. The story elicits some real laughter at times as well as some anxiety about the outcome.
Major Pettigrew is a very likeable character. He and the rest of the characters are very well-portrayed by the narrator. I was very sad that the story ended!
Unfortunately, the reader is an American and he struggles mightily with all the different British accents. I am British and it is testament to how good is the book that I listened to the end since the mangling of all the characters' different dialects really irritated me. However, if you are American and are not particularly attuned to all the intricacies of British accents (why should you be?) then I do recommend it as the writing is very entertaining and the gentle story holds the interest. With a more suitable reader I would probably have rated it 5 stars. I believe the Audible UK version has a British reader.
and a nice commentary on family life and the relationship of older adults with their children. Most entertaining book I've listened to in weeks.
To love this book, it helps to be an Anglophile.
It started out slowly and very predictable and the characters seemed too predictable and shallow, but it got so much better I ended up loving it. The main characters actually evolved, sort of as you expected but so much more interesting and fun than I anticipated. I highly recommend it.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a wonderful book. Helen Simonson does an outstanding job of developing characters. The story line is filled with humor and emotion. Major Pettigrew is challenged to look at his own opinions in a new light. Something we can all benefit from. Peter Altschuler's narration is spot on! I feel as if I have spoken with Major Pettigrew himself. Highly recommend.
The author has crafted a slow, elegant waltz across cultures, generations and a changing Britain. Superbly told, with a keen sense for whimsy and dry British humor. The book is a delight.
I wasn't sure about purchasing this audiobook as listening to a book is a major investment in time and some books don't translate well to being read aloud. However I did enjoy Major Pettigrew's individuality which was constantly at war with his stuffiness and ideas of what is right and proper. Although not a genre I normally read, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was poignant, funny and altogether human. I recommend it.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.