Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Leave it to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse

Psmith. The P is silent, as in shrimp.

I don't know when I ever would have looked up Wodehouse, had it not been for the enthusiastic praises of friends. (Looking at you, Annie.)

And oh my, am I glad I did. I enjoyed myself so much.

The Book
[From the back cover of the Arrow Books edition:] Lady Constance Keeble, sister of Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle, has both an imperious manner and a valuable diamond necklace. The precarious peace of Blandings is shattered when her necklace becomes the object of dark plottings, for within the castle lurk some well-connected jewel thieves--among them the Honourable Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth's younger son, who wants the reward money to set up a bookmaking business. Psmith, the elegant socialist, is also after it for his newly married chum Mike. And on patrol with the impossible task of bringing management to Blandings is the Efficient Baxter, whose strivings for order lead to a memorable encounter with the castle flowerpots.

Will peace ever return to Blandings Castle...?

My Thoughts
P.G. Wodehouse is a delightful mix of consumable fiction and quality writing. Anyone who pumps out that many books is probably writing them to be quickly enjoyed and more wanted immediately. But British consumables from the 1920s have a certain class to them that modern equivalents don't achieve. His witty narrative and varied characters put it on the level of Cadfael--those consumables that I have no guilt consuming lots of.

The characters are wonderful. Freddie Threepwood, with his love for really cheesy movies. The suspicious Baxter (We hates him, precious. And we feel sorry for him, too.) Lovable Lord Emsworth with his opinions on hollyhocks. Vulgar Cootes; imperious Lady Constance; immature Mr. McTodd (that poet needs a good spanking) and the beautiful Eve Halliday. I loved them all. With as many characters as Wodehouse introduced in his first chapters, he would be told to cut the number at least in half in the modern publishing world. But you know? It doesn't hurt any reader to have to exercise their brain. Sometimes a lot of characters just gives you an opportunity to work a little harder to remember and sort them out.

The star of the show--by far, the star of the show--was beloved Psmith. I have an affection for Comrade Psmith. A warm sort of fangirlish affection. Psmith is classy. Psmith has a monocle. Psmith, with his cultured speech and ever-courteous jibes, is just the sort of fellow I approve of. I understand his reluctance to continue in the fish trade completely. His calm, thoughtful solutions whenever he got in a scrape--his gentle whiling of Eve Haliday away from stuffy libraries to enjoy his company--oh, yes. Comrade Psmith is just the sort of character I am rather jealous for not inventing myself. He would fit well in the varied collection of characters I like to call friends.

The plot was tight. Every disaster I could foresee happened, and then some. Wodehouse put in all the twists and turns you could hope for. And each disaster was accompanied with a huge dose of humor that had me laughing like I've rarely laughed over a book before.

Consider the following gem:
"I asked you to wear a pink chrysanthemum. So I could recognize you, you know."
"I am wearing a pink chrysanthemum. I should have imagined that that was a fact that the most casual could hardly have overlooked."
"That thing?" the other gazed disparagingly at the floral decoration. "I thought it was some kind of cabbage. I meant one of those what-d'you-may-call-its that people do wear in their button-holes."
"Carnation, possibly?"
"Carnation! That's right."
Psmith removed the chrysanthemum and dropped it behind his chair. He looked at his companion reproachfully.
"If you had studied botany at school, comrade," he said, "much misery might have been averted. I cannot begin to tell you the spiritual agony I suffered, trailing through the metropolis behind that shrub."
I've never met a writer as delightfully funny as Wodehouse. You'll find some language, mostly on Freddie Threepwood's account, but nothing too bad. I enjoyed the whole journey. I really didn't know which suspect was going to end up taking the necklace--there were a lot of people with a good alibi to choose from. It was delightfully suspenseful.

And at the end, did my Melancholic Phlegmatic mind start dissecting the moral ethics of taking stealing in such a light-hearted fashion?

Yes. Yes, it did. (Thank-you for pegging me, Annie.)

But I promptly gave it a stern talking to and sent it back to its room. P.G. Wodehouse is meant strictly for entertainment, and should be taken as such. There are some books where over-analyzing would be a crime, and this is one of them. It is not meant to build your moral foundation on. It's simply meant to be a rollicking, hilarious joy-ride of mishaps and unexpected love.

Check out Leave it to Psmith for a light-hearted, funny, must-read. My first Wodehouse--and I hope there will be many more to come!

11 comments:

  1. *hugs review happily* (Aww, you mentioned me twice! All the warm fuzzies.)

    I'm more than delighted that you now love Wodehouse, Schuyler! He's one of those authors I happen to be so fond of that I want all my friends to read his books and love him too. So I scatter praises and book copies about liberally. ^_^

    Ahh, Lord Emsworth is adorable and lovable and my favorite character throughout every book about Blandings Castle. And poor, unfortunate Baxter. That flowerpot scene, though! XD Oh! And when he slipped on Freddie's golf ball. Priceless. He has some pretty comical moments in "Something Fresh" too.

    "I have an affection for Comrade Psmith. A warm sort of fangirlish affection. Psmith is classy. Psmith has a monacle. Psmith, with his cultured speech and ever-courteous jibes, is just the sort of fellow I approve of." I agree wholeheartedly. I knew you'd like him lots. ;)

    I laughed so hard over the chrysanthemum scene, I probably sounded a bit off my head. Good thing I wasn't in public. o.o

    "And at the end, did my Melancholic Phlegmatic mind start dissecting the moral ethics of taking stealing in such a light-hearted fashion?" *cough* You gave it a stern talking to -- go, Schuyler! *playful grin* ;)

    Yes, I thoroughly concur. Wodehouse is meant for entertainment, and suspending one's belief (in some cases) and it's all half-serious, rollicking good fun. Wait until you read The Code of the Woosters and Aunts aren't gentleman. *rubs hands together gleefully*

    P.G. Wodehouse is gold. That is all.

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    1. I have started your top-recommended Wodehouse (I'm sorry I don't remember the title) and I'm enjoying Jeeve's and Wooster's adventures thus far. That poor, brainless boy.

      Aunts Aren't Gentlemen! Oh my, that title has been cracking us up all week! It's positively brilliant wit. XD

      Thank-you so much for grabbing me by the hand and eagerly leading me into this wonderful, golden world of laughter. I love it so much. <3

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  2. That particular character in the quote would have benefitted from the high school level Horticulture course I have in my possession. He may as well have. I couldn't get anyone else to take it. #FamilyJoke #Horticultureiscool

    I've enjoyed your delightful, witty review. It was as entertaining as I expect the book itself will be. :)

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    1. *consults Psmith on possibilities of stealing the horticulture course*

      No, all joking aside, I'm sure it's quite wonderful, as much as we groan about it.

      I can't wait to read the book with you and CG. :D

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  3. LOL! Now you have to read my second favourites, RIGHT HO JEEVES and THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS!

    LEAVE IT TO PSMITH is my favourite of all, though, and the reason is definitely Psmith. I explored this a bit more in my own review (http://www.vintagenovels.com/2014/11/leave-it-to-psmith-by-pg-wodehouse.html), but the main reason is he's less helpless (and, ahem, more attractive) than Bertie Wooster!

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    1. “There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, 'Do trousers matter?'"
      "The mood will pass, sir.”
      *squeals* I just finished reading "The Code of the Woosters" last week, and it was so good!

      Now I feel a little intimidated by the fact that the first two Wodehouse books I read are "Right Ho Jeeves" and "The Code of the Woosters" (it was a random choice, I had no idea they were some of the best). . . but Wodehouse is Wodehouse, and I'll enjoy anything else he writes, even if it doesn't parallel those two.

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    2. @Suzannah I like Psmith's resourcefulness and class. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up being my favorite of the two, though of course I shall reserve judgment until I read all of them. I shall have to look up your review to compare!

      @Joy-HAAAA! That quote is terribly funny. :P I'm sure you'll find many other Wodehouses to enjoy, though, most especially this one.

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  4. Oooh, Schuyler has read a Wodehouse!! *cue much excitement among the Wodehouse fangirls* But seriously, isn't he so much fun? I haven't read any of the Blandings novels, and "Leave it to Psmith" sounds so good, and your review just perfect, I feel compelled to go and hunt this book down, at all costs!!

    Also, that chrysanthemum scene made me laugh, though I haven't even read it in context. Thanks for sharing!! Aww, Psmith sounds like a delightful sort of chap - I want to meet him! And I chuckled when you said he's the sort of character that you'd feel jealous for not inventing yourself - why, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's felt that emotion over a character in a book! #writermoment But for all his dear-hearted charm, Wooster make me roll my eyes sometimes, and Jeeves is wonderfully Jeeves. Still, I am sure you'll love meeting those two - and hey, Suzannah just mentioned the two books I've read and loved for Wodehouse - "Right Ho Jeeves" and "The Code of the Woosters" are FANTASTIC!!

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    1. I have! He is! You should!

      Jeeves is wonderful. I think I shall love Jeeves very much. And Bertie's too funny when he's trying to lay down the law to Jeeves and ends up failing miserably. :P

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  5. Dear Schuyler,

    When I began reading Wodehouse, the Melancholic part of my mind did the same thing! But I gave mine a talking-to also, and it obeyed pretty well, because my Phlegmatic is a lot stronger, and it was already hopelessly in love with the kindness and goodness and bumbling, tumbling brilliance of Wodehouse's world. I tore through the many Jeeves books this summer, and I have read a Psmith-and-a-half, but am saving Leave it to Psmith for last. I'm reserving final judgment till I've read all four Psmith books, but Psmith will have to be something pretty special for me to love him more than Bertie Wooster. Psmith has more class and more brains, but Bertie is utterly sweet and guileless.

    I hope you will treat us to more Wodehouse reviews in the future! ;)

    Love,
    Elisabeth

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    1. I am glad my inner Melancholic is not alone. I loved the way you described Wodehouse, and your speedy reading this summer puts me to shame! You will love Leave it to Psmith. I highly approve saving it for last. It will be a wonderful closing experience.

      I hope to!

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