Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Narrated by Peter Altschuler
Publisher: Random House Audio
Synopsis: 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? (Synopsis from www.helensimonson.com)
My Thoughts: Every review I’ve read of this book has been glowing. Everyone seems to love it. Maybe I had my hopes up to much but I was a bit disappointed. I was bored. I figured out the twists and turns long before they happened. That said, towards the end of the book I did like it.
Ultimately for me this book is about people. Meeting people. Moving on. And that despite the fact that we may be from different cultures we aren’t necessarily that different. It is also about life in a small town (something I am ALL to familiar with).
I’m not one who needs a whole lot of action in my books, to tell the truth I often skim the actual ACTION scenes in the In Death books. Or at least they don’t stick with me. But this book was just a little bit slow for me. To much of Major Pettigrew thinking and not enough of him actually acting on his thoughts. And I think this is what was frustrating for me. I get that he is a “stiff upper lip British gentleman” one who might not want to or be used to acting on feelings. But sometimes I just wanted to shake him. I don’t like having to shake my main characters.
I also thought that the actions of many of the characters were far to stereotypical to actually be believable. The fact that the golf club dance went the way it did wasn’t exactly a surprise and that was frustrating for me. Why didn’t they see it?! Why didn’t they prevent it long before it went the way it went? Yeah frustrated is the way I felt.
All that said, I felt that the characterization of the main characters was spot on. Although I worked with elderly Swedish gentlemen, and not British ones, I still recognized him. He felt very familiar, not because he was a stereotype, but because he was real. And so was Mrs Ali. They felt like real people, which is why I continued to listen to the book, even when I felt frustrated. In addition there were some instances where I laughed out loud. Absolute belly laughs, it was a good thing that I listened to most of this book in the car driving so that no one else could hear me.
I also enjoyed the narration of this story. Altschuler had the voice down pat. It was as if he was Pettigrew. And the secondary characters were also well done (no annoying accents, my pet peeve). Despite this not being a favourite of mine, I can’t exactly say I wouldn’t recommend it, just to someone who has a slightly different taste to mine.