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
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I generally don't enjoy "English humor" so was hesitant to choose this audio, however, the great reviews persuaded me--I am so glad I listened. The narrator was perfect in portraying the nuances of each character. I felt like I was present with the characters and, at times I was actually laughing out loud. It was sweet and funny- an unexpected jewel!
This book takes a long time to get started. I almost gave up, but I'm glad that I kept listening. A sweet and entertaining read.
As this started off, I thought it was going to be a predictable, British village novel. It's much more. The protagonist turns out not to be a cardboard caricature, but a likable gentleman of some complexity. I thought the narration was just right - the reader's accent added to my enjoyment of the book.
I enjoyed this book; learning the mores and practices of this class of society was very enlightening -- as well as all their prejudices. The reader was very expressive, and the author was very insightful in describing these complex relationships.
I enjoy Scandinavian mystery and crime authors like Asa Larsson, Helene Tursten, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum and Amaaldur Indridason just to name a few.
What a fun listen. There is so much fun packed into "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" I will listen to this audiobook many times.
Words like charming, funny and lovely come to mind around this book. It is beautifully written and the narrator reads with such gusto and a wonderful array of accents he caused me to laugh out loud. I don't think a listen gets better than this. I can't wait for her next book.
Suprisingly well written with a lead character who I'd normally despise but has such a sharp view of the world you can't but help like him
This book is well read and a wonderful tale. If you liked #1 Lady's Detective Agency, then listen to this as it has the same rhythm and charm, just set in the English countryside. The main characters are well developed and you see their flaws and strengths as they work through the multiple clashed of culture that make up life today. The book is humorous and witty and, miraculously, avoids falling into being kitschy. Don't expect great literature, but if you are looking for a heartwarming and entertaining tale, this is a very good choice.
This novel wrapped around me like a warm and cuddly blanket. It tells the story of Major Pettigrew (retired) who is mourning the death of his brother Bertie and discovers that many of his beliefs about family and tradition need to be updated. It's a warm love story between improbable soul mates. The honorable and chivalrous Major Pettigrew saves the day. I might have only given this four stars if I had read the print version because the ending is a little pat, but the narration by Peter Altschuler is marvelous and bumped this one up to become a five star book.
While the story does start off slowly it is worth staying with. I found it absolutely delightful and was sorry when it came to an end. And the reader was perfect for the story.
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