I’ve managed to finish two books in the last couple of days, including Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (which I will review doubled up with Mockingjay a bit later on, for various reasons), and just today, Much Obliged, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse. Having discussed Wodehouse before but never reviewing one of his books on its own, I thought, well, why not do it now?
It is tricky to review any Wodehouse book, to be honest. As Stephen Fry puts it, on the cover of this book, “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour.” I must confess, I tend to agree with Fry on this one – there is something about the way Wodehouse writes which resists any analysis and critique, and I suspect he is one of the only writers in the history of writing in the English language who has managed to achieve this.
Much Obliged, Jeeves is part of the ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ series of novels, and compared with those which I have read so far, the story in this one stood out particularly as being a little more unique, while reprising many beloved characters and places from previous stories. Set in a place known as Market Snodsbury, the story centres around a chaotic local election between Bertie Wooster’s friend Ginger, and the rather firm and powerful Mrs McCorkadale. In the mix of all this are numerous engagements (with varying degrees of amiability between the couples), Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia, where everybody is staying, and who is trying to extort a large amount of money from the grumpy old Runkle by softening him up with her chef Anatole’s amazing cooking, and a book known as the Book of Revelations – a book shared among butlers which contains all of the deeds and misdeeds, routines and bad habits of their employers. When the book suddenly disappears, the dignity and respect of several people becomes jeopardised, including those involved in the election.
The story is great, and leaves you guessing right up until the last few pages how it will ever be resolved, and as always the resolution is startling in its simplicity and genius. If I were to critique one aspect of this novel, it is that the wit doesn’t seem as sharp as it has in other Wodehouse books I have read – however, this is only comparing it to other Wodehouse books, as on its own against most literature this novel is still highly witty and hilarious. And considering this book was first published in 1971, when Wodehouse would have been in his late eighties, it goes to show that even old age bore no real threat to his intelligence, charm and general verbosity.
I wouldn’t recommend Much Obliged, Jeeves as a first Wodehouse novel for those yet to read him, as it mentions far too many events and characters who have no meaning unless you have read his earlier works (I always suggest to start with Thank You, Jeeves), but for those more seasoned readers of this series (by which I mean you have read at least three or four), there is plenty of fun to be had between the covers of this book. For those interested, I rated this four out of five on GoodReads (and gave a considerably shorter review on there similar to this one).
Lastly, I have to share my favourite line from the book: “Where one goes wrong in looking for the ideal girl is in making one’s selection before walking the full length of the counter.”
What books have you finished recently?
Have you read any Wodehouse novels in recent times (especially as I keep bringing him up)?