by P. G. Wodehouse
The Overlook Press, Woodstock & New York, 2001. (First published in 1954.) 231 pages.
Honestly? The reason I continue to review Jeeves and Wooster books is so I can remember which ones I’ve read. I will list them in order on the side for the benefit of my readers, and the more I include, the more helpful that is. (Not that order makes a huge difference with these books.) The library has The Collector’s Wodehouse, which I must admit, I would love to own myself. But thanks to space constraints, I am very happy the library owns them, so I don’t need to.
Yes, the books featuring the young and feckless Bertie Wooster and his brilliant gentleman’s personal gentleman Jeeves are all very similar. But they are also all clever, quirky, and laugh-out-loud hilarious.
There is generally a young lady whom Bertie is in danger of marrying. He needs to keep her romance flourishing with one of his buddies. In this book, the lady in question is Florence Craye.
You see, the trouble with Florence was that though, as I have stated, indubitably comely and well equipped to take office as a pin-up girl, she was, as I have also stressed, intellectual to the core, and the ordinary sort of bloke like myself does well to give this type of female as wide a miss as he can manage.
You know how it is with these earnest, brainy beazels of what is called strong character. They can’t let the male soul alone. They want to get behind it and start shoving. Scarcely have they shaken the rice from their hair in the car driving off for the honeymoon than they pull up their socks and begin moulding the partner of joys and sorrows, and if there is one thing that gives me the pip, it is being moulded. Despite adverse criticism from many quarters – the name of my Aunt Agatha is one that springs to the lips – I like B. Wooster the way he is. Lay off him, I say. Don’t try to change him, or you may lose the flavour.
Even when we were merely affianced, I recalled, this woman had dashed the mystery thriller from my hand, instructing me to read instead a perfectly frightful thing by a bird called Tolstoy. At the thought of what horrors might ensue after the clergyman had done his stuff and she had a legal right to bring my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave, the imagination boggled.
Additional customary motifs are also present. His amiable Aunt Dahlia is in a scrape of her own and risks losing the services of her chef Anatole (a disaster of epic proportions). Bertie is expected to help in a scheme fraught with danger. Bertie has dared to go against Jeeves’ fashion sense (always a bad idea) by growing a moustache. And as usual, Jeeves is the one who can tie up all the threads neatly and save the day.
Some of the Bertie and Jeeves books are short stories and separate adventures. This one is a unified whole, with all the more threads to tie up neatly at the end.
I’ve gotten where I like to keep a P. G. Wodehouse novel handy to dip into now and then. I don’t really lose the train of thought – I know where they’re going by now! – and it’s sure to get me laughing and simply appreciating the clever word play. If I want to lighten up and give myself a few smiles, I pull out my current Wodehouse. I’ll be sad when I finish all the Jeeves books, but I won’t nearly be done when that happens.
If you haven’t tried Wodehouse yet, do so some time when you want to lighten up. It won’t fail you.
And a big thank-you to my sister Becky for introducing me to him years ago!
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