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on 2 May 2011
This was not nearly as engaging as I had hoped and as other reviewers seem to have found. I thought the characters were one-dimensional, indeed many of them are caricatures. The Major has his moments but I found it hard to care about him or anyone else. The social observation is thin and unconvincing. The writing is straight out of the 'creative-writing' school, what with gibbous moons and hedges 'tumbling by'; and the plot is implausible and unappealing: the farcical evening at the Golf Club is almost embarrassing in its clunkiness. I'm afraid the author was trying too hard.
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on 1 August 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ernest Pettigrew, retired army major, lives in the perfect English cottage, set in a perfect English garden, in the perfect English village. Major Pettigrew is already a widower, living quietly, enjoying the odd round of golf, and managing to just about circumvent the schemes of the local match-making ladies. Then the sudden death of his only brother, the subsequent family wrangles over a pair of valuable guns, and a new romance force him out of his comfortable, rather self-satisfied rut. He strikes up a friendship with Mrs Ali, the elegant and kind local shopkeeper, who shares his delight in the works of Rudyard Kipling. There is inevitable hostility from both the local Little-Englanders and Mrs Ali's own people, culminating in a spectacularly disastrous evening at the golf club. Despite repeatedly allowing his baser motives to influence his actions, and messing up quite thoroughly, the major is utterly charming. This is a delightful, funny, thoughtful love story with many well-rounded characters, particularly the nasty ones! Highly recommended.
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on 16 October 2011
I was so excited to read this book. I bought it based on the cover, the blurb and first page and could hardly contain my excitement to read it.

I was really disappointed in it. Not the story, because overall that is really rather good but there are SO many issues with it.

The writer clearly has not lived in England for a long time and seems to have an understanding of England that is stuck in about 1985. As others have mentioned the Major seems to have a very old fashioned view of the world and his ideas seem to be those of a man 25 years older. Since my parents are the same age as the Major I can really see the difference. Also as others have noted there are loads of Americanisms which absolutely destroys the characterization - the Major is meant to be Englishness personified so he is unlikely to even know what a `locker room' is in the sense of a changing room and certainly wouldn't have worked in an `elementary school'.

But the thing that is so offensive is the author's belief that Britain is essentially a very racist place. At one point she mentions that parents at a primary school threaten to take their children out of the school because an Asian child joins; she has a group of men call Asian waiters a very racist term beginning with `p' in a golf club and a man is rejected from the same golf club because he married a black woman. I may be naive but I have lived in various villages and towns over the South of England and I have never found this level of racism. At points this aspect of the novel made me wish to throw it across the room and cry out with frustration. I just don't believe these things would happen.

Lastly, another thing that bugged me was Major Pettigrew's son's name. He's called Roger and he is 30. I'm in my early 30s and there is not one of my generation whom I've ever met called `Roger', oh yes it's a typically `British' name I suppose but how ridiculous to have someone that young called it! All the Rogers are the generation above - it's a baby-boomer name! Ernest (the good Major's name) is also the wrong generation but that bugged me less.

If she'd set it 20-30 years ago it would be believable and all these things may (I say may) have been forgivable but it's set in the 2010s and it's just not acceptable or believable. I really wanted to enjoy this book and the fundamental story is good as is the writing but the whole racial issue just destroys it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 April 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Initially I really liked Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and throughout the book I liked the character of the Major. However, the further into the story I got the more things began to irritate me.

All but the characters of the Major and Mrs Ali are pretty unlikeable. They are caricatures and stereotypes set in some strange time-warp village. The book mentions the lottery early on so it must be post 1994 but the village and characters are so antiquated and old fashioned that some of the attitudes and incidents could easily be placed 50 years ago.

Most of the characters are heavily prejudiced and while the main characters triumph again these attitudes I felt many of the situations were unlikely to happen (unless the story was set many years ago). In one incident a child describes how other children aren't allowed to play with him because he's a single child! In modern England? I could accept middle class parents of 2.4 children families smugly looking down on a single parent family, but stop children playing together for that sole reason - really? Maybe I'm being naive? There were a few other inaccuracies that also jarred against the supposed modern setting - i.e. "large bottle of aspirin" when drugs haven't been provided in bottles for many years in the UK and a few other little unlikely Americanisms.

I enjoyed the parts about the Major and Mrs Ali, and the development of their relationship.

Reading all the positive reviews I can see I'm in the minority and maybe it's just that the farce style didn't click with me. I would imagine that I couldn't see the humour that everyone else could. I also know that when I feel there is an inconsistency in a story or scene I do get easily distracted! I apologise to the author if I've missed the point!
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on 14 March 2010
Major Pettigrew arrived in Cornwall a few weeks ago, and we've been slowly getting acquainted. Well, his is the sort of story that suits being taken at a gentle pace, with lots of time to contemplate.

Born in India, but now retired to the picturesque English village of Edgcumbe St Mary, he was adjusting to life as a widower. Pottering around the house and garden, maintaining his traditional customs - like a properly made cup of tea and the words of Kipling. He wasn't a man to show, or even acknowledge his emotions, but he was a man who would always try to do the right thing.

His brother's sudden death threw him off-balance. And it was just after he received that news that Mrs Ali, proprietor of the village shop, arrived on his doorstep. An intelligent and compassionate woman, she had lost a beloved spouse not so long ago too, and was just the person to understand Major Pettigrew's distress and help to steady him.

Major Pettigrew discovered that Mrs Ali loved Kipling and poetry too, and a friendship developed that would grow into something rather more.

They made a lovely couple, and it would be a delight to meet and talk with either or both. And their story is lovely, old-fashioned, and very well told.

But of course there were complications. Both families made demands, and many of the villagers while trying to demonstrate just how multi-cultural they were actually demonstrated that they were nothing of the sort.

None of the sub plots were wrong, indeed there were some lovely moments, some wonderful set pieces, and some thought-provoking points were made. They did enrich the story. Major Pettigrew's ambitious son and Mrs Ali's devout nephew provided a particularly well drawn study in contrasts. And some storylines were cleverly set up to look as if they were going to go one way, when in fact they were going to go somewhere quite different but entirely right.

Yes, many thing were done very well, but unfortunately some wrong notes were hit and some things were taken a little too far, when they needed the wonderful subtlety of the main storyline.

A strong picture of a village community was clearly painted, but some of the details were just not right. And that was infuriating, because it did distract attention from the very many things that were done perfectly.

I am still very happy though that I met Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali. Two wonderful characters, whose stories have a great deal to say about love, life, family, community and values.

And that made this book well worth reading.
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on 7 July 2011
This book was recommened in the Times, and bought it on the strength of that. It's as good as Washing of the Spears by Donald Morris. A must buy for any American History fan!
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on 2 August 2010
This is a compelling read, it's not a history lesson on a page it's written in such a way that you imagine your there. A lot of myths have been written about this battle and Custers part in it. He was a man with many flaws and an ego so big it blinded his judgement on a lot of occassions. This time he was so wrong. Looking at this event with 21st century eyes you sense the shame the American people must feel about the way they treated the native Americans.
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on 17 January 2011
"The Major gulped at his tea making an unfortunate slurp. It was embarassing but served to quell the "Here, here!" that leaped unbidden to his lips."

Not everyone will know (or care) that what the Major really meant was "Hear, hear", but the author should, and so should her editor. Especially since this schoolboy error is put in the mouth (or mind) of a retired English teacher.

You might enjoy the story if you're willing to put up with this kind of thing and some terrible dialogue (judging by how he speaks, the Major's son is either mentally ill or comes from another planet), but if it's literary merit you're looking for I'd give it a miss. To me it looks like yet another example of a book that's been rushed out without being properly edited in order to meet a publishing deadline.
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on 18 June 2016
I did finish the book, but only because there was nothing else to hand. It picked up towards the end when the characters and action became more realistic. Presented as contemporary but felt like a period piece, and not in a good way.
There must be some Major Pettigrew types still about but a decade or two older than this one. He was 68 but described as if he were twenty years older. Most of the characters were unappealing and unrealistic. The storyline was predictable.
It was recommended to me by an ex pat. Was it aimed at an overseas older audience who might appreciate this fantasy of life in an English village? There was the Major, the women on the committee, the men at the golf club, the local gentry, the unassimilated Asians plus token "down from Londons" (as we call them in Sussex).
The writing was so good that I'd like to read something more believable written by Helen Simonson.
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on 29 June 2010
I do not have the vocabulary to express adequately how superb I felt this book to be. Once I started this book I could not do much else other than get to the end as soon as possible. It is to me the proverbial "could not put it down" (as a cricket fan I even did not watch England beat the Ausatralians in a 50 overs game - a rare occurence)and it was more of a page turner than many a thriller. If I was on a desert island and was allowed to take one book with me until now they were one of the following "The Reckoning" or "The Official Biography of TE Lawrence." This book would now be in contention.

The writing is straightforward and does not get in the way of the narrative - sometimes I think historians write for other historians only and to show how cleaver they are use words that were archaic even in Chaucer's time - not in this book. The writing here is clear e.g. when people die they die - unlike an historian I read recently who used the phrase "passed on" or "passed over" constantly and as a lot of people died in that book that phrase was long and annoying. Mr Pilbrick also avoids unnesssary adjectives or sentances so long that you have forgotten the beginning by the time one gets to the end. This could be used as a text book on how to write clear English for history books.

The story is fascinating particularly if like me you grew up in the days when every second film was a western and some dealt specifically with the Little Big Horn. I was always on the Indians' side and from reading this book I had good reason to be. From what I remember none of these film showed how bad the relationships between the army officers of Custer's command were and how this affected the outcome.

As the book drives to the battle the background of the likes, hopes, fears and blaming of and by the various Army Officers involved directly or indirectly with the battle are introduced where and when it seems appropriate to the narrative. Every officer seemed to have their own aggenda and made their decisions on what that was rather than how they should be in a unified command. The events described here reminded me of a book "The Reason Why" which described (from what I remember) the dreadful relationships between Lords Raglen and Cardigan that contributed to that debarcle known as "The Charge of the Light Brigade.' The selfishness of officers told here could also be applied to the modern world particularly politics and business.

The amount of research was for this book is clearly huge and on pages 209/10 the author discusses profoundly the dilemma that he and all historians face with e.g. their sources - when they written, by whom they were written and accuracy of memories.

I cannot write well enough to do this book justice - just read it.
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