18/09/2012

The Code of the Woosters (by PG Wodehouse)

I started reading PG Wodehouse when I was in my early teens, on the recommendation of my father. I've acquired various of his novels over the years, and enjoyed reading some aloud to my sons when they were in their teens. My favourite characters have to be Bertie Wooster, the generous, gregegarious (and slightly gormless) wealthy young man, and his highly intelligent valet Jeeves.

In recent years I haven't delved into Wodehouse books all that much; indeed, I got rather lazy and watched the brilliant TV series 'Jeeves and Wooster' on DVD, over some months. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie portray the main protagonists so brilliantly that I enjoyed it very much and felt it was in just the right spirit... even if it seemed that, from time to time, the DVDs deviated somewhat from the storylines of the book.

So it was very timely that I happened to be browsing book reviews on the Ciao site when I came across this excellent review of 'The Code of the Woosters'. It was so good that I paused half-way through reading to check whether it was amongst the fairly extensive Wodehouse collection on my shelves. It wasn't, so I then hunted around online to find out where I could buy the book as soon as possible. It's not available at Project Gutenberg; there is a Kindle version, but it costs almost as much as the paperback on Amazon. So I was delighted to discover the paperback version on special offer, costing less than three pounds (postage free), from The Book Depository. I put in an order at once.

I was surprised that we did not already own this book, as the plot as described in the review seemed rather familiar; perhaps I read it when I was a teenager, or perhaps this book made up part of the TV series.

I finally picked it up to read a few days ago, and have enjoyed it very much indeed.

Bertie Wooster is summoned by his Aunt Dahlia, who requests first that he poke fun publicly at a strange antique called a 'cow creamer', then that he travel down to Totleigh Towers to steal it. Bertie has also received a summons to the same country estate from his newt-loving friend Gussie, who is engaged to the fluffy Madeline, and another from her cousin Stephanie (Stiffy). Clearly Bertie is in great demand, so with Jeeves in tow he tootles down in his natty little car.

Unfortunately, Madeleine's father Sir Watkyn Bassett is not a fan of Bertie's, having once fined him for stealing a policeman's helmet, and he holds him in great distrust. Worse, he is accompanied by a would-be dictator, Roderick Spode, who threatens violence against Bertie... until Jeeves manages to unearth a secret which Spode does not want to be revealed.

It's all ridiculous, of course; Bertie staggers from one crisis to another, terrified of the wrath of Spode, the tears of his aunt, and perhaps worst of all the embraces of Madeleine, should she and Gussie decide not to get married. Jeeves stays calm and generally comes up with brilliant solutions to every problem, even though sometimes the solutions seem to make things even worse for Bertie...

What makes Wodehouse worth reading, over and over again, is his wonderful use of language, his irony, his quotations and mis-quotations from classics, and of course the way that the plot all hangs together, with everything working out just right in the end. Even if Jeeves does, once again, get his own way about something he wanted to do that Bertie was not keen on...

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 18th September 2012

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