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.
[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...?
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! 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!