Damsel in Distress (by PG Wodehouse)

Although I’ve been reading the Jeeves and Wooster books by PG Wodehouse for about forty years now, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered some of this brilliant writer’s other lesser-known works, thanks to Project Gutenberg, the repository of thousands of out-of-copyright books made available in electronic form.

I downloaded ‘Damsel in Distress’ at least a year ago, but have only just read it for the first time. Unusually for Wodehouse, this is essentially a love story. George Bevan, the main protagonist, is a likeable young man from the US who has made his fortune by writing popular music. He hates being the centre of attention, however, and is beginning to feel a bit jaded, when to his astonishment a beautiful girl leaps into his cab and asks him to hide her.

George rises to the occasion with aplomb, and ends up with what might be termed minor assault, although it seems justified in the circumstances. George finds himself utterly captivated by the girl, who soon disappears. But he manages to discover who she is, and rents a cottage in the neighbourhood of her home.

However Maud, the young lady in question, is of the aristocracy. Her father, Lord Marshmoreton - who reminded me forcibly of Lord Emsworth of the Blandings Castle series - likes nothing better than to potter around his extensive gardens, tending his roses. He is under the thumb of his sister, who wants Maud to marry her step-son Reggie….

Cue typical Wodehouse misunderstandings and confusion as George arrives, and is mistaken for someone else.

It might not sound like much scope for a plot, but in Wodehouse’s hands it’s a wonderful comedy of errors, with his usual subtle and not-so-subtle references to literary figures as diverse as Biblical heroes and the protagonist of a limerick.

Fun is gently pointed at the less likeable elements of the family, although I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for Maud’s brother once or twice; he’s not a nice chap, but he does what he can to protect his sister and her honour. Small blighted Albert, a page with the dubious honour of being educated by Maud, provides a wonderful foil to the butler, who bears little resemblance to Jeeves.

There are one or two unexpected developments in this book, but with Wodehouse it’s not the plot that matters so much as the mixture of people and the surreal situations which, in his hands, seem all-too-real.

Very enjoyable to read on my Kindle - highly recommended to all who enjoy this writer.

It's a testament to the popularity of PG Wodehouse that his works are re-published regularly, almost 100 years after they were written. Links given are to print editions of this book, but audio and Kindle versions can also be found at Amazon, or the free edition can be downloaded and transferred to an e-reader via Project Gutenberg.

Review copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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