Week two of my book challenge and I’ve opted for a classic, the second in Wodehouse’s Blandings series.
Something Fresh (Blandings #01)
P.G. Wodehouse is an author I have only recently discovered despite being fairly well known and being first published in the early 1900’s. My first venture into his work was by audiobook, the first of his Blanding’s novels called Something Fresh and it was possibly the most perfect audiobook I have as yet encountered. The story is engaging without requiring too much concentration; ideal for driving or knitting or any other everyday task. The humour light and quick without being stupid or crude and the characters extremely well drawn without hours of description. Add to this a wonderfully fitting narration and you have the most rounded experience of an audiobook you could ever hope for. Yes, it really is that great!
This first Blanding’s novel follows several eccentric British characters reaching across several classes with an occasional American thrown into the mix. Almost farcical in its style, the story is told in an indulgent manner, witnessing the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of these loveable though clearly flawed characters as they all romp through whatever charade is playing out across the pages. It is the matching satirical narration by Frederick Davidson that made listening to this version of the audiobook so enjoyable (Audible link here). However Audible has at least two different narrations of this book, and though I can’t imagine anyone else doing greater justice to it the sample I listened to of the other version seems perfectly good also.
Wodehouse’s style and view of the british reminds very much of The ‘Thinks I To Myself’ novel by Edward Nares that I am currently recordng as a audiobook (see my previous post).
Summer Lightning (Blandings #02)
So I have waxed lyrical on Something Fresh (rightly so) and have yet to mention this week’s book Summer Lightning. This is the second in the Blanding’s series following on from Something Fresh (see it is related). After loving the first audiobook so much I went out and purchased the first three books in the series in book format and I’m very glad I did. Re-entering Wodehouse’s world is a delight, it is so quintessentially English that it can’t help but make me smile. With some of the same characters and some new, a whole new farce being played out and many to the point descriptions I enjoyed it immensely.
Wodehouse very cleverly interweaves several interlinking stories with each character clearly at the centre of their own plot. The reader gets to enjoy the God like feeling of seeing the overarching story and how they are all going to collide in a most satisfying manner. If you would like to know what it is about I will tell you there are a couple of love stories, a tell-all story about the gentry about to be published, a crazy ex-secretary and the theft of a prize pig, beyond that you’ll have to look it up yourself (on Amazon here). Overall I liked this book, possibly not as much as the first one. The slightly less enthusiastic review of this book is most likely due to the first having the advantage of novelty, and the very great advantage of a great reader.
I have also just discovered the Blanding’s collection was turned into a British TV series in 2013 and is likely to have a 3rd series in 2016. To top it off it seems to have an epic cast with some great comic geniuses including Jennifer Saunders and Tim Vine! This is something I need to hunt out and investigate.
In order to give those of you who aren’t familiar with his work (as I wasn’t) a little incite, I have extracted a few quotes I think will help paint the picture.
Wodehouse prefaced the book Summer Lightning and within the first paragraph he addresses his critics as follows:
‘A certain critic – for such men, I regret to say, do exist – made the remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.’
An example of his complete understanding of the English way is shown within the novel as follows:
‘The Instinct which warns all good Englishmen when tea is ready immediately began to perform its silent duty. Even as Thomas set gate-leg table to earth there appeared, as if answering on cue, an elderly gentleman in stained tweeds and a hat he should have been ashamed of, Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, in person.’
‘When some outstanding disaster happens to the ordinary man, it finds him prepared. Years of missing the eight-forty-five, taking the dog for a run on rainy nights, endeavouring to abate smoky chimneys, and coming down to breakfast and discovering that they have burned the bacon again, have given his soul a protective hardness, so that by the time his wife’s relations arrive for a long visit he is ready for them.’
And finally an example of Wodehouse’s way with words when it comes to description:
‘Percy Pilbeam’s eyes were too small and too close together and he marcelled his hair in a manner distressing to right-thinking people, but today he had to be lumped in with the rest of the species as a man and brother, so Hugo bestowed a dazzling smile upon him. He still thought Pilbeam should not have been wearing pimples with a red tie. One or the other if he liked. But not both.’
With over 100 books to his name and a style I’m loving I may never be lost for a book again!