Bertram Wilberforce “Bertie” Wooster has heretofore tolerated his butler, Jeeves, interfering in the lives of the wealthy citizens of England. But Bertie reaches his limit when he discovers that Jeeves is trying to convince Gussie Fink-Nottle to woo Madeline Bassett; Fink-Nottle, the idiot who lives in the wild countryside and studies newts — for fun!
Thinking that Jeeves has finally let the power go to his head, Bertie takes from his butler the match-making reins, vowing that he will soon have all things settled. But when fate—also known as Bertie’s ineptitude—brings everyone to his Aunt Dahlia’s house, things begin unraveling fast.
Gussie’s totally sloshed, Aunt Dahlia’s fantastic but temperamental French chef is quitting, cousin Angela is making not-so-subtle jabs at her recent ex-fiance, and too late Bertie realizes that he’s in over his head. Does this mean the end for Bertie, or can Jeeves save the day once again?
I love humor in books, and British humor especially. It’s like a martini — dry, with a twist. And it’s what author P.G. Wodehouse is known for. He is revered by writers like Terry Pratchett (no surprise there) and Douglas Adams.
Wodehouse was also apparently an amazing lyricist. I had no idea that he worked with Jerome Kern (whose most famous musical is Show Boat) and Cole Porter (they wrote Anything Goes together). Both of these were total game-changers in the early days of the American musical, and I studied them in college.
Great characters (and more humor!)
You may have seen this coming, but it seems that Jeeves always saves the day. As 1book140 host Jeff Howe said in a recent tweet, “I love Wodehouse, but he does stick to formula.” This is annoying to some, but for me knowing the destination doesn’t make the journey any less fun. I’m still not sure how we’re going to get there, or what obstacles we’ll meet along the way.
And boy, does Bertie meet some obstacles! Most of them are his own creations, of course, which makes them all the more funny. But I did feel bad for him…a little.
My favorite character has got to be Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia. She’s loud and harsh and snarky, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud when I read this:
“ ‘Attila,’ she said at length. ‘That’s the name. Attila the Hun.’
‘I was trying to think who you reminded me of. Somebody who went out strewing ruin and desolation and breaking up homes which, until he came along, had been happy and peaceful. Attila is the man. It’s amazing,’ she said, drinking me in once more. ‘To look at you, one would think you were just an ordinary sort of amiable idiot — certifiable, perhaps, but quite harmless. Yet, in reality, you are a worse scourge than the Black Death. I tell you, Bertie, when I contemplate you I seem to come up against all the underlying sorrow and horror of life with such a thud that I feel as if I had walked into a lamp post.’”
It’s that kind of character, along with amazing descriptions like “pop-eyed little excrescence” and “He just seems to float from Spot A to Spot B like some form of gas” that had me chortling out loud and reading bits and pieces to Best Friend (bless his heart, he knows I’m crazy and humors me anyway).
What a great, great book with which to end the year. You should start 2012 with it.
Anyone else as obsessed with British humor as I am? Which Jeeves book should I read next?
*Just a quick note that I am out of town from 12/23 – 12/26. Posts should be going up automatically, but I’ll be slow on responding to comments until I get back. Thanks for your patience, and have a fantastic holiday weekend!*