BooksOfTheMoon

Love Among the Chickens (Ukridge, #1)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 3 stars

Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge descends upon his friend Jeremy Garnet and persuades him to come to the country and help him farm chickens. Whilst there, Garnet falls in love with a nearby resident but love’s course never runs smoothly. And while Garnet is wooing (or, at least, trying to woo) the young lady, the chicken farm goes from calamity to calamity.

This is very early Wodehouse and I found myself skipping entire pages in frustration. I just didn’t like the character of Ukridge. Unlike other (later?) creations, he has all the flaws of a Wodehouse character, but none of the compensations; he’s not charming, just boorish, arrogant and completely self-absorbed. Thank goodness he’s not the protagonist of the book; it would have been too much to take. Thankfully, large chunks of the book are focused on Garnet and his love life which is much more like the Wodehouse we know and love, coming up with a plan Jeeves himself would have been proud of (and then dealing with the consequences when it went horribly wrong). That’s the only reason this book is scoring as highly as it is from me.

Book details

Publisher: Herbert Jenkins
Year of publication: 1906

The Adventures of Sally

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed this book, focussing on Sally Nicholas, who’s just come into an inheritance, and her adventures, starting with a holiday in Europe where she meets Ginger Kemp, who’s a good egg but who can’t seem to hold on to any work.

It’s interesting, in that there are more clouds in these particular sunlit uplands than I’m used to with classic Wodehouse. Not necessarily many, but it feels like he was trying to add a bit more depth (and even pathos?) to his writing. Paragraphs where Sally muses on the nature of men’s focus on success to the exclusion of all else, or the (more than one) references to suicide bring this into relief.

But there’s still a lot of humour, and Wodehouse’s patented absurd characters, not to mention frightful relatives (an uncle, this time, rather than the more traditional aunt) and it wouldn’t be Wodehouse if it didn’t all get untangled by the end.

Book details

Publisher: Herbert Jenkins
Year of publication: 1922

Leave it to Psmith

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 4 stars

As fond as I am of Wodehouse, I’ve managed to never encounter Psmith (the P is silent) before. However, he’s quickly introduced as a dapper young man, in need of employment (anything but fish) but with impeccable dress sense and a can-do attitude. It’s the usual Wodehouse froth, but with an extra layer of action on top. Involving a “borrowed” umbrella, impersonating poets, diamond necklaces and even a pair of crooks, Psmith gets stuck right into the middle of things, all while trying to avoid the watchful eye of the Efficient Baxter.

Wodehouse characters are charming caricatures. This book doesn’t change that at all, but it doesn’t need to. I already know and love the inhabitants of Blandings (yes, even Rupert Baxter) and Psmith fits right in, as he tries to woo the library cataloguer whilst trying to bring a happy ending for his old pal Jackson (with a little light theft thrown in for good measure).

As always, there are double-crossings, misunderstandings and improbably complex plots, all with lashings of Wodehouse’s trademark whimsy and humour. I know what I want from a Wodehouse book, and they invariably deliver. I’d happily leave my problems to Psmith.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841591254
Publisher: Everyman
Year of publication: 1923

Summer Lightning (Blandings Castle, #4)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 4 stars

It’s always a pleasure to spend more time at Blandings Castle, with its, er, eccentric inhabitants and hangers on. This time round, the Empress of Blandings has been kidpignapped and the Earl of Emsworth is distraught. Meanwhile, his brother is writing his memoirs which will upset the gentry in a dozen counties and there are not one but two pairs of star-crossed lovers whose relationships need straightened out. Add to this the return of the Efficient Baxter and even the imperturbable Beach being perturbed and you’ve got a perfect storm.

While I had some trouble getting into this book, that’s more to do with circumstance than the book itself (I wasn’t in the best frame of mind, and I’d hoped a bit of Wodehouse would help. In the event, it probably wasn’t the best choice). Once I put it down for a bit and came back to it, the old Wodehouse magic worked its charm and I was hooked again. I love the outrageous characters, the Mild Peril™ and, of course, the happy endings. Huge amounts of fun, as always.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099513827
Publisher: Arrow Random House
Year of publication: 1929

Big Money

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 5 stars

To try and explain the plot of this book would make it sound complicated and unfunny, neither of which is really true, but I couldn’t do it justice. Let’s just say that it has one or more of the following elements: the peerage, the suburbs, fiancés, love at first sight, formidable aunts, an old copper mine and a dyspeptic millionaire.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s got a different tone to the Jeeves books, but it really came together for me. The protagonists, Lord “Biscuit” Biskerton and John Beresford “Berry” Conway are very likeable and even (gasp) competent, if in that slightly potty upper-class way that Wodehouse could capture so well. There are fiancés by the handful (and Wodehouse’s fiancés usually are a handful), misunderstandings, plots, crosses, double crosses, and much fun to be had by all.

Wodehouse’s batting average is still incredibly high with me and whilst I may just be easily pleased, it’s funny, light of touch and marvellously easy to read. Both a great entry point to the world of Wodehouse and a fine addition to the collection of an existing fan.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099514220
Publisher: Arrow
Year of publication: 1931

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (Jeeves, #11)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 4 stars

I was slightly disappointed by the last Jeeves book, Ring for Jeeves, and I’m glad to say that with this one, Wodehouse is back on form. Although it’s still post-war and there are rumblings of social change, this time they’re just on the edge of the story and sort of fit better into Uncle Tom’s mouth (the long-suffering husband of the marvellous Aunt Dahlia).

This time round, ‘Stilton’ Cheesewright finds himself unable to beat Bertie to a pulp, as he’s drawn him in the annual Drones darts tournament, for which Bertie is a shoe-in. As usual, there are fiancées involved, while someone’s trying to poach the wonder-chef Anatole from Aunt Dahlia and there’s trouble in the household as Bertie grows a moustache, much to Jeeves’ disapproval.

This is an incredibly fun story that had me laughing out loud quite frequently. If you’re a fan, you’ll lap this one up, if not, you’ll enjoy it, although I’d probably start with one of the earlier ones as there are references to earlier escapades that Bertie found himself in.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099513933
Publisher: Arrow
Year of publication: 1954

Carry On, Jeeves (Jeeves, #3)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 5 stars

I am a huge fan of P. G. Wodehouse, having come to his oeuvre quite late, particularly the bumbling but ever-likeable Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s personal gentleman, the inimitable Jeeves. This volume is an entire collection of Jeeves and Wooster stories, including several that go on to be referenced elsewhere in the canon. For example, the infamous article for Milady’s Boudoir is first written here and we get to see how the gastronomic artist Anatole came to work for Aunt Dahlia (the only good egg in a handbag of aunts). This volume also has a rarity: a story narrated by Jeeves himself, not Bertie. This could have been a disaster, as so much of the fun of the stories comes from Jeeves’ cunning plan, but Jeeves’ horror of Bertie adopting a child and his elegant solution do work and don’t spoil the magic at all.

The stories aren’t exactly what you might call inventive or artistic: Bertie, or one of his pals, gets into a scrape (often with an aunt) and Jeeves gets him out again, often through an unnecessarily complex plan. But they are very good fun, and Wodehouse’s prose is a joy to read. Bertie’s narrative voice is clear and distinctive and the whole thing just comes together.

If you’ve got a horror of upper class Englishmen of a certain era, then avoid like the plague, but for the rest of us, if you see this (or, indeed, any Wodehouse novel) don’t hesitate to pick it up!

Book details

ISBN: 9780099513698
Publisher: Arrow Books
Year of publication: 1925

Mike at Wrykin

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 2 stars

While I’m a huge fan of Wodehouse’s work, I didn’t hugely enjoy this. It’s one of his juveniles, in his ‘school’ series and I didn’t find much in the way of his trademark humour or his fine control of language. Normally the upper-class nature of Wodehouse protagonists doesn’t bother me, but this public school setting really rubbed me up the wrong way.

It’s loosely about the titular Mike Jackson, starting at Wrykyn public school and mostly playing cricket. Oddly, despite my dislike of sport in general, cricket is the one sport that I retain some fondness for, so the cricket in the book doesn’t bother me, but the public school smugness and disdain for civic authority stuck in the craw. And, most disappointingly, even the marvellous characterisation that we know Wodehouse for is missing, with all the characters here being quite bland and nothing memorable about it.

An interesting early oddity but not a patch on his later work.

Book details

Publisher: Armada Books
Year of publication: 1953

Very Good, Jeeves! (Jeeves, #4)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 5 stars

This volume contains eleven short stories featuring the immortal Bertram Wooster and his inimitable gentleman’s personal gentleman. This collection has several classic stories, including Jeeves and the Impending Doom, Jeeves and the Song of Songs and Episode of the Dog McIntosh. There’s the ongoing feud with Tuppy Glossop over that rotter’s practical joke, leaving Bertie hanging high, but not dry, the continuing curse of the aunts (despite Bertie’s protestations, I’m not sure Dahlia is that much better than Agatha) and, of course, Jeeves, striding through it all, with a pithy quote and a brain freshly fed on fish to help solve the Young Master’s problems.

PG Wodehouse is a master at this. I’ve never read a Wodehouse that I haven’t enjoyed and they are a sheer joy to read. This volume is certainly no exception to that.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841591421
Publisher: Everyman's Library
Year of publication: 1930

Service With a Smile (Blandings Castle, #9; Uncle Fred, #4)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 5 stars

In this visit to Blandings Castle, we find the Duke of Dunstable plotting to steal the Empress, a new and insufferable secretary and, to cap it all, the Church Lads’ Brigade are camped all over the lawns. It’s a lot for the Earl of Emsworth to cope with, but he doesn’t have to do it alone. That general do-gooder, and all round nice guy, the Earl of Ickenham, aka Uncle Fred, is ready and willing to provide service with a smile.

Light, fluffy, funny and a balm to the soul, reading a Wodehouse novel is always a joy, and this is no exception. While I’m not as familiar with Uncle Fred or the inmates of Blandings as I am with Jeeves and Wooster, I’ve read some (and watched the BBC TV series) and it’s always nice to get better acquainted with them.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099513995
Publisher: Arrow
Year of publication: 1961

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