Monday, April 30, 2012

Inimitable Jeeves - PG Wodehouse

"I flung open the door. I got a momentary flash of about a hundred and fifteen cats of all sizes and colours scrapping in the middle of the room, and then they all shot past me with a rush and out of the front door; and all that was left of the mob scene was the head of a whacking big fish, lying on the carpet and staring up at me in a rather austere sort of way, as if it wanted a written explanation and apology."

Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, known as "Bertie" to his friends, belongs to the upper crust of Edwardian society. Unfortunately he's not very smart and is forever getting himself into embarrassing situations. Luckily for him, his valet, Jeeves, is tactful, brilliant and possessed of a wit that usually flies over Bertie's head. Together they form an odd partnership that carries them through a variety of events, encapsulated in 18 short stories.

I had never read Wodehouse before and had only vaguely heard of 'Jeeves & Wooster' the tv show starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Boy was I surprised. All the stories link together to form a cohesive whole; there's a variety of situations that involve different characters and there's a light tone to the book that keeps the reader from getting bogged down in detail or exposition. I was also very impressed with the slang and diction used in the book. It felt modern and fresh, echoing the feel of the twenties yet I could still understand it. For example:

"The good old persp. was bedewing my forehead by this time in a pretty lavish manner. I don't know when I've been so rattled."

Another aspect of the book I loved was the humour and Wodehouse isn't just funny, he's laugh out loud hilarious! Also, it wasn't just slapstick run of the mill humour, it was intelligent and visual. Here are just a few choice snippets of what you'll find in the book.

"She had a penetrating sort of laugh. Rather like a train going into a tunnel."

"He chuckled like the last bit of water going down the waste-pipe in a bath."

"Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad."

The fact that this book was published in 1923 yet is still funny today and uses slang familiar to a 21st century reader, is extremely impressive. It's rare to find a book almost 100 years old that is still so accessible. It is also very intelligently written and the fact that it does so many things right makes for an amazing story. If you're looking for a light, funny read, pick up one of the books in the 'Jeeves' series. I highly recommend this book in particular and can't wait to read my next Wodehouse!

Rating: 5/5

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