Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joy in the Morning

“It was one of those cases where you approve the broad, general principle of an idea but can't help being in a bit of a twitter at the prospect of putting it into practical effect. I explained this to Jeeves, and he said much the same thing had bothered Hamlet.”

When it comes to writing humor, there are few who do it as well as P. G. Wodehouse.  With a career spanning seven decades, Wodehouse would create a huge body of work containing everything from short stories to plays to novels to song lyrics.  But out of all these he his best remembered for his creations of Bertie Wooster, a foppish and foolish English gentleman, and his reserved and extremely intelligent valet, Jeeves.  Where Bertie Wooster goes, chaos and trouble are sure to follow and it is up to Jeeves to get him and his friends out of many a scrape.

The Plot:

Steeple Bumpleigh may seem a very idyllic and peaceful English village, but Bertie Wooster knows otherwise.  As the home of his overbearing Aunt Agatha, her crabby husband Lord Worplesdon, and his daughter, Florence (whom Bertie narrowly avoided marrying), it is a place that Bertie avoids at all costs.  But when Lord Worplesdon finds himself needing Jeeve's expertise in planning the execution of a delicate business matter, Bertie is forced to make the trip down from London with him.  As he expected, it is non-stop chaos as he tries to avoid becoming engaged to Florence again, being thrown in jail by her on/off fiance Stilton, and being terrorized by her brother Edwin.  As always, Jeeves is forced to take the situation in hand and create a happy ending for everyone.

My Review (Caution - Spoilers):

I have long been a fan of Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories.  The stories are so funny, the situations so absurd, and the characters so memorable.  Though I have listened to audiobook versions of many different stories, this is the first Wodehouse novel that I have actually read. 

This is a classic Jeeves novel, pure and simple.  All of the great elements are there.  It does take place about midway through the series, so it is probably not the best one to start with.  But if you are already familiar with these stories you will find this one just as delightful.  I love how we get to see everything through the eyes of Bertie.  This poor guy hardly does anything and yet he always finds himself in the most ridiculous of situations.  And it is always great to see a story involving Aunt Agatha who "crushes broken bottles with her teeth and conducts human sacrifice by the light of the full moon".  Even though she doesn't actually appear in most of the book, her presence still hovers causing terror in the hearts of many characters.

Though I wouldn't say this is THE funniest Jeeves/Wooster story, it certainly is a solid one.  I often found myself laughing out loud at the goings on.  Like when Edwin accidentally blows up the cottage.  Or when Boko "arrests" the American businessman.  Or when Bertie discovers Lord Worplesdon locked up in the garage.  Plus, there are all of the classic slang terms and metaphors.  I love it when great works of literature (like Shakespeare) make sneak appearances, giving this crazy novel a somewhat highbrow air.

If you have never read any of these stories, do yourself a favor and pick one up.  They are all so bubbly, witty, and just pure fun.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

The Movie:

My favorite adaptation of these stories is the 1990-1993 Grenada TV series starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Frye.  An adaptation of this particular story can bee seen in Series 4 Episode 2 entitled "The Once and Future Ex". 

1 comment:

Karen K. said...

I LOVE Wodehouse, have done since I watched Jeeves & Wooster back in the 1990s. My kids love him too. If you like this sort of humor, I highly recommend "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome - imagine if Bertie and two equally idiotic friends went on a boat trip down the Thames but brought a fox terrier instead of Jeeves. There's a wonderful audio book by Naxos narrated by Martin Jarvis which I just love.

Thanks for linking your review to the Back to the Classics Challenge!