Doctor Sally

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 3 stars

After reading the synopsis, I almost didn’t buy this slim volume, as I thought it could be awful, but my love of Wodehouse won over. The plot, what there is of it, is your usual Wodehousian shenanigans, with Bill Bannister falling in love with a beautiful lady doctor, Dr Sally Smith, with the complication that he’s already involved with another woman.

My worry about the tone of the book wasn’t eased when it opened with Sir Hugo Drake, a nerve specialist and archetypical “gammon” if ever I saw one, observing a beautiful golf hit (can you tell I don’t do sports?). I worried when he found out that this perfect shot wasn’t played by an “old chap” but by a woman. But Wodehouse played with my expectations, and Sir Hugo is much more interested in the golf than the person, and compliments her on her abilities and is happy to even take instruction from her.

The nominal “hero” of the book, Bill Bannister, made a much less favourable impression on me, especially towards the end, when he physically threatens Sally, in a scene that really felt out of place for a Wodehouse comedy. The moment quickly passes and isn’t really remarked upon again, but it felt unpleasant.

The book isn’t really long enough to get into the usual labyrinthine plots and counter-plots of a Wodehouse story, giving it a kind of perfunctory feel – it’s only 120 pages, and even taking into account the smaller font size of older books like this edition, it feels particularly slight.

My favourite character was probably Lord “Squiffy” Tidmouth, who feels much more like a traditional Wodehouse character. Rich, swanning around, currently between wives, not burdened with too much in the way of brains, but amiable and loyal. A chap I’d like to have in my corner.

So while most of the book concerns Bill’s attempts to get Sally to love him, the cringe I’d feared about the “lady doctor” and the expected sexism never really materialised, thankfully. This was enjoyable enough – it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared (damned by faint praise there), but it’s certainly not classic Wodehouse.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140013702

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