Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

I had most of this review written out and I just deleted it. It just wasn’t going right. This is one of those books where I just want to tell you to go read it. Trust me. Go. Read. It. Honestly, I loved this book so much I don’t know how to begin to describe it without gushing. I can’t promise that I can hold it all back, but I will try.

Major Ernest Pettigrew leads a quiet life in the very English town of Edgecombe St. Mary. The Major himself IS Very English. He is wry, honorable, opinionated to the point of being dogmatic, and completely charming. The Major is retired and he is widowed. His son Roger is a complete ninny. He loves a proper cup of tea at the proper time of day. And his brother has just died. It is on the day of his brother’s death that he begins an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the widowed Pakistani shopkeeper in the village. She pops in for a moment, but winds up staying for hours to keep company and comfort him.

The Major’s life is deceptively quiet. As I was listening to the story, I felt myself longing for the quiet English countryside, the quiet English evenings of tea and talk and gardening. Yet at the same time, there are so many things going on in this novel. Simonson tackles racism, ageism, disrespect, greed, and so many more. The novel is not dragged down by all these subjects, not at all. It almost feels like a modern day Pride and Prejudice with more elderly…  no, more well seasoned characters for never did Major Pettigrew feel very old to me.  Simonson smoothly weaves all these threads together to create a novel that is quietly compelling.

I loved all of her characters, from the Major, to Mrs. Ali, even to Mrs. Ali’s stubborn nephew and Roger, the Major’s obnoxious son. I love the story, the romance, and the very English sense of humor that permeates the book. But mostly of all, I found myself loving the reader. I listened to the audiobook presentation of this novel and it is fantastic. Peter Altschuler did an amazing job. I still have a hard time believing this was his first audiobook. His voice IS Major Pettigrew to me now. He did a marvelous job distinguishing characters with different tones and different accents. I was utterly enchanted by the book, Mr. Altschuler and Major Pettigrew.

PS: I sincerely hope Mr. Altschuler gets more audiobook work.  And I can’t wait for Ms. Simonson’s next novel!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Helen Simonson
Read by: Peter Altschuler
Category: Literary, General Fiction, Widows, Love Stories
Published by: Random House
Format: Audiobook
On Sale: March 2010
ISBN: 9781400068937

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

  1. I have heard such good things about this book!

    In my mind, I have the thought that it is kind of similar in tone at least to the Natasha Solomons book that you raved about earlier this year.

  2. This book sounds fantastic. Thanks for the great review. I've read a few others that didn't give me a clear idea of what the book was about.

  3. All right, fine — you've convinced me! Adding this one to my wishlist after seeing so many positive reviews. The English aspect alone more than appeals to me… I'm on it. Wonderful review — the "gushing" ones are typically the most interesting to me! 🙂

  4. My mom read this while she was here this past May and she absolutely loved it! She kept chuckling here and there and really piqued my interest. I know I'll read it in the next few months, but I hope I like it better than Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. That one fell flat for me. And I so wanted to love it after I read your wonderful review!! 🙁

  5. I love your review! This was such a great book. Thanks for linking to my review. It really is one of those books you want to press into the hands of everyone you meet.

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