Saturday, 14 August 2010

Book 2: Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse

If you stick with me for all my summer book reviews you will discover they are all light reads. I saw PG Wodehouse on the shelf and gave a little sigh of relief. Wodehouse always has an excellent use of the English language and a farcical mix of over-the-top characters.

"Something Fresh" doesn't fail with either. It is the first of the Blandings novels, introducing the slightly demented Lord Emsworth, his wayward son Hon Freddie Threepwood, the Efficient Baxter (the secretary) and the butler, Beach. Of course, Wodehouse is better known for Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves, but I thought it would be worth giving other characters a go.

There is a delightful mix-up over the loss (or was it theft?) of a valuable scarab. Realising there is money being rewarded for its recovery various people chase off to Blandings Castle to try to retrieve it. This cannot be done with open honesty but by the most devious means possible, so that no-one knows who they are or what they are really up to. The description of the severely sleep-deprived Baxter believing he is hallucinating in the pub (when we, the reader, really know what he sees and hears to be true) is superb.

Truly Wodehouse is a master of the pompous upper-class character and inevitable farce in stately homes. Clearly it is from a bygone era, and it is hard to imagine what a modern equivalent might be, but on finishing the book I fell asleep drafting my own play for a West End stage: a bedroom farce with unknown guests and unwanted interruptions. Thankfully for the rest of the world, I slept before it became a reality. Even more thankfully, Wodehouse manages it to perfection and is freely available from the library.

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