Much Obliged, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
For those of us unlucky enough not to belong to the English aristocracy (or live in the 1930s, for that matter), P.G. Wodehouse is our only saving grace. For the few hours it takes to read any of his novels, the world could not be more perfect. We have acres of lush countryside at our disposal, it's mostly sunny, the breakfast tables heave with bacon and kippers, and the real world is firmly locked out while we sing, drink and do, well, nothing of substance. Bliss.
Wodehouse's Jeeves novels are quintessentially English, and the fact that the television series is still being screened regularly and the average bookstore always has at least 17 volumes in stock speaks volumes about that great British sentimentality about a glorious, lost past. The stories follow a simple pattern and are virtually interchangeable: Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, a genial if somewhat dim-witted young aristocrat, and his valet Jeeves get entangled in a scenario that inevitably involves an aunt, a friend from Bertram's schooldays, one of his many nemeses and several ex-fiancées. In the course of the story, one or several of the ex-fiancées proposes to a panicked Bertie, knowing full well that he would never turn a lady down, while Bertie does his best to safely reattach her to his school chum. Also, there is usually a prank/robbery that Bertie has to perform in order to help blackmail a nemesis into allowing his daughter to marry the school chum and/or parting with vast amounts of money for a similar good cause. So far, so simple. What makes the whole thing work time after time is Wodehouse's humour. I have never laughed so hard at something so repetitive. Jeeves' intellect and stiff upper lip contrasts Bertram's lack thereof perfectly, and the dialogues between the two of them are stuff of legends, although Bertram's flowery narrative is enough to make you bellow:
I produced my cambric handkerchief and gave the brow a mop. Recent events had caused me to perspire in the manner popularized by the fountains of Versailles.
This particular installment gives an added twist to the familiar story of aunts and ex-fiancées by featuring the club book of The Junior Ganymede, the top club for gentlemen's gentlemen, which, in the wrong hands, could ruin Bertram's reputation. In Wodehouse world, all this makes perfect sense. And as always, Jeeves will save the day.
This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of K's reviews, check out the blog, ... And then I Read Some More.