Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

  • by Helen Simonson
  • Narrated by Peter Altschuler
  • 13 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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?


Audible Editor Reviews

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


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Charming book with an excellent narrator

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a finely-textured comedy of manners concerning a retired English gentleman's growing affection for a Pakistani widow amid his attempts to cope with the current generation's departure from the proper British ways he learned in childhood and the family conflicts surrounding his brother's death. Although the author provides a sensitive look at the culture clashes that inevitably result, she does so without being preachy or intolerably politically correct. The narrator's plummy accent is perfect for the upperclass Major Pettigrew, but he is also quite adept at giving each of the other characters a distinctive and believable voice. An excellent book if you like a rather slow pace and dry English wit.
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- jc

The world needs more novels like this

This is a humorous, gentle well-written comedy of manners, nothing trite about it. There's no angst or violence or silly bodice ripping. Although a light read, it's still in touch with reality ( especailly that of "polite" prejudice of many kinds). The novel can say that you're never too old for love without sounding like a hallmark card. Reading this novel won't change your life, but it sure can brighten up a gloomy day or soothe the progress of a head cold. May the author write on and on. (Note if you dislike a Brit character who feels "assaulted by American vowels," this may not be for you - there are lots of pride and prejudices in all the lovely, flawed characters.)
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- connie "Narrative makes the world go round."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-02-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio