Source of book: Audiobook from the Library
Okay, so if it isn’t obvious, I love P. G. Wodehouse. This is the second Wodehouse audiobook we listened to on our recent vacation. Here are the other reviews on this blog, which represent just the books I have read since I started the blog in 2010.
For those who care about all things Jeeves and Wooster, this is the second novel in the “Totleigh Towers” sequence of novels, commencing with The Code of the Woosters. In this group of four novels, Bertie is threatened repeatedly with the horror of having to marry Madeline Bassett. This is not to be confused with the equally horrid prospect of having to marry Florence Cray, in such books as Joy in the Morning.
Whereas Florence is an imposing female of great intellect and forcefulness, softened only by her “wonderful profile,” Madeline is best known for saying, with all the sappiness possible, “Oh, Bertie!” “The stars are God’s daisy chain,” and, “Every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born.” You get the idea. She is perfectly portrayed in the outstanding BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster (the brilliant collaboration of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) by Elizabeth Heery.
Both The Code of the Woosters and Jeeves and the Mating Season are prime sources for the series. The first gives the infamous “cow creamer” incident, and this one gives a case of swapped identities.
So here is the basic setup: Gussie Fink-Nottle, engaged to Madeline, has a fight with her, and drowns his sorrows with "Catsmeat" Potter-Pirbright, a former classmate of himself and Bertie. As a result of the shenanigans, he is arrested, and thus cannot make his appearance at Deverill Hall. If he doesn’t, it will get back to Madeline, who will then wish to marry Bertie, and so on. So Bertie impersonates Gussie, Catsmeat impersonates “Gussie’s” valet. And then, when Gussie does get free and shows up, then he has to impersonate Bertie, while Jeeves plays himself. Meanwhile, Catsmeat is trying to woo the heiress Gertrude Winkworth, who may be in danger from the outrageously handsome and dashing Esmond Haddock, who is secretly engaged to Catsmeat’s sister…
And, well, one could say about most Wodehouse plots, “complications ensue.”
Or perhaps, “hilarity ensues,” which is much the same thing.
It takes all of Jeeves’ legendary ingenuity to untangle this web before someone who actually knows Bertie or Gussie shows up and blows everyone’s cover.
Most of the Bertie and Jeeves stories are narrated by Bertie, who combines and obviously educated vocabulary with an utter lack of anything resembling good sense, which makes for stuffy yet ludicrous lines throughout.
One other thing of note in this book is that Wodehouse references his feud with A. A. Milne by tasking Bertie with reciting a Christopher Robin poem, and making it seem like a sore trial indeed. Like the great war between the respective fans of Brahms and Wagner, this one seems a bit silly in retrospect as both Wodehouse and Milne are now recognized as luminaries of British humor and fiction of their time.
My kids have really taken to Wodehouse, after we started them on one of the Jeeves books on a previous vacation. My older girls are big fans of Psmith in particular, and I can’t disagree with their taste. If you haven’t already fallen for the charms of ol’ Pelham Grenville, what are you waiting for?
This audiobook was read by Jonathan Cecil, who made quite a collection of Wodehouse audiobooks. If you can find them, they are outstanding.