Love Among the Chickens (by PG Wodehouse)

I’ve been a fan of PG Wodehouse for over forty years. While he was best known for his many novels about the hapless Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, he wrote many other books as well. They are not all readily in print, but since they’re out of copyright several of them can be found, free to download on Project Gutenberg.

One such novel is ‘Love among the chickens’ which I put on my Kindle a couple of years ago but only recently read, while travelling. The story is narrated by a struggling writer called Jeremy Garnet, who used to work with a larger-than-life and entrepreneurial character (who appears in other volumes too) known as Ukridge. Jeremy is persuaded, rather against his better judgement, to go and stay with Ukridge and his unassuming wife Millie, and to assist in their new project, starting a chicken farm.

It quickly transpires that neither of the Ukridges have any clue what to do with chickens. But Ukridge has a business plan - of sorts - and is convinced he is going to make their fortunes. They arrive at the farm and are almost shot by the housekeeper, and gradually life becomes more and more chaotic, Jeremy charting everything carefully while Ukridge sails through life, convinced everything will work out eventually, and blaming everyone but himself when it doesn’t.

There’s another subplot involving a young woman at a nearby farm, whom Jeremy finds very attractive… and several other sidelines to the story, introducing a wide spectrum of characters, some more believable than others.

The story itself is somewhat ridiculous, of course, although the foreword to the book implies that it’s based on something that actually happened. But Wodehouse was a master of language, of satirical humour and of the classic understatement. I love the way he wrote, and savoured his language on every page.

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as the Jeeves and Wooster stories, it was an excellent book for travelling; I read some of it on a flight and, the next day on a coach, and on a couple of evenings later on. It was light enough that I didn’t need to concentrate much; it was also the kind of book I could put down at any moment and resume later without losing the train of thought.

I don’t think this would make a particularly good introduction to Wodehouse; inevitably it’s quite dated, and the style won’t appeal to everyone, but for fans of this author, I’d recommend it highly. Links are to Amazon editions of the book, which has been reprinted in paperback as well as various e-book editions, but it can still also be found free elsewhere.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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