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
Author: Helen Simonson
Read by: Peter Altschuler
Category: Literary, General Fiction, Widows, Love Stories
Published by: Random House
On Sale: March 2010
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