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
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.
Helen Simonson's beautifully imagined characters and Peter Altschuler's amusing and poignant narration join together delightfully in this audiobook. While I'm sure that Ms. Simonson's book stands up well in print, Mr Altschuler brings great heart and, well, OOMPH, and drew me along to the exciting conclusion. Exactly what I'm looking for in a great audiobook - very satisfying.
Sometimes I wonder, with some books, how I just READ them before. With a book like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, it almost cries to be listened to. The narrator does a marvelous job of reading this book, what's more, for me he became Major Pettigrew, with all his fuddy-duddiness and his never ending wish to keep things all things so "veddy veddy Engish." But the best part was how human he made him. I loved this book and was really sorry when it ended. It really was an old fashioned love story of two unlikely people and it makes for a great read. It was also hysterically funny and the Major cetainly did get himself into some situations. I highly recommend it!
Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...
Charming and real, with that dry British humor. Sustained my interest throughout, a good cozy book. Excellent narration.
This story starts out well with excellent character development. The writing is quite good, and the narrator is excellent. The story seems to drag a bit in the second half as you start to realize that not much is happening. I would recommend this book if you are looking for a modern-day Jane Austen type book geared for men and women.
This is a book that I will enjoy listening to or reading in print again and again. Characters that start out with a P.G. Wodehouse sort of charm turn out to have quite a bit of depth. The use of language is inspired and the narrator is top notch.
This book breathes new life into the traditional English village novel. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition inherent in the stodgy old white guy who was born in Lahore (in what is now Pakistan) who is considered "English" and several characters born in the UK who are considered "Pakistani". Major Pettigrew is stolidly conservative and old guard but he is also educated in history and a thoughtful guy so therefore is more sympathetic than most of his friends--and his son, who you just want to reach into your ipod and punch in the face! All in all, a great listen and you'll really cheer for the old Major when he makes his last stand.
Very much enjoyed the plot - it is both sweet and has a serious side of addressing aging, relationships, and predjudices. The narrator was excellent - read at a nice pace and changed tones enough to bring the characters to life without overdoing it.
I've been listening to audio books for years and have been an audible subscriber for ? 10 years maybe? A long time anyway.
I'm not even finished yet, but I had to pass on how enjoyable this narrator, in my opinion, is. I enjoy his tones, can hear Maj Pettigrew's sarcasm, wit, and pain in his voice. Nice. One of my favorite things about audible books is a talented speaker!
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