Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is Helen Simonson’s absolutely charming debut novel that I highly recommend in audio.
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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Synopsis
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?
Heartwarming, charming and funny – Helen Simonson has penned a beautiful love story for all ages. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is one of the most uplifting and rewarding literary romances I’ve read in years.
Simonson does not dally around, introducing us to her endearing protagonist Major Ernest Pettigrew and the inimitable Mrs Ali in the opening lines of this novel. They may be of an older generation but nothing is going to pull the wool over the eyes of Ernest. Not the well-meaning busybodies of Edgecombe St. Mary, or even his own ambitious son for that matter.
The dry wit in the Major’s perceptive and at times cutting observations are a real treat.
“Look, I think the bar is just beyond that palm tree”. There was almost a small opening in the crowd at the bar, but the space between the Major and a welcome gin and tonic was occupied by a rather unhappy looking Sadie Khan and her husband, the doctor. The doctor looked stiff to the point of rigormortise, thought the Major. He was a handsome main with thick short hair and large brown eyes, but his head was slightly small and was stuck well into the air as if the man were afraid of his own shirt collar. He wore a white military uniform with a short scarlet cloak and a close fitted hat adorned with medals. The Major could immediately see him as a photo in the newspaper as some minor royalty recently executed during a coup.
Audiobook narrator Bill Wallis‘ calming and measured delivery is a pleasure to listen to, seamlessly shifting between the gravelly voice of Pettigrew, the sotto voce of Mrs Ali and the easily distinguishable ensemble cast of family and villagers (listen to an audio sample).
I also think the cover art on the original publication, clothing placed on a hat/coat stand in such a way as to appear as two people embracing, is so very clever.
Every word of praise Helen Simonson has received for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is warranted. The Times summed it up perfectly, ‘Words cannot convey the slow-burning pleasure of this novel’. There is something enduring and truly hopeful about people finding love in their later years and fighting for what is ‘right and honourable’.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Genre: Romance, Drama, Literature
About the Author, Helen Simonson
Helen Simonson was born in England and lived in the English countryside as a teenager. She has lived in America for more than 20 years, Brooklyn and now Washington DC. Helen wrote Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand over a 5 year period part-time while raising her children. Check out her website for more information.Updated