Saturday, 17 October 2015

Thank You, Jeeves - PG Wodehouse

This is the first of Wodehouse's novels to feature the wonderful Jeeves, and the first that I've read, although I have watched the Jeeves and Wooster TV series many many times. Usually I'd say that watching an adaptation before reading the book spoiled it for me a little, but Steven Fry, Hugh Laurie and the mood of the production as a whole captured the feel of the characters and the story so perfectly that I didn't mind seeing them play it out in my head as I read.

Bertie Wooster's new musical instrument, the banjolele, drives him by popular complaint from his London flat to a country cottage on his friend Chuffy's seaside estate, and also forces Jeeves to give notice, who is promptly rehired by Chuffy himself. Bertie's peaceful country retirement is shattered by the arrival of his beautiful, charming and unregretted American ex-fiancée Pauline Stoker and her disapproving father, and an amusing sequence of evasions, misunderstandings and reconciliations follows.

Bertie's amiable but vaguely bemused viewpoint gives humour to every scene, for instance one in which he and Pauline are (through a completely innocent if highly unfeasible set of circumstances) about to be discovered alone together in his bedroom, she wearing his pyjamas, begin to argue about the niceties of grammar rather than the problem at hand.

Some of the events in the novel were moved around or taken out to shorten it a little for the adaptation, so even having seen the episode I wasn't sure what was going to happen next. Unusually, I don't feel as though the changes necessarily made the story worse, or better for that matter – it was just a case of reaching the same conclusion through slightly fewer stages. There were a few very funny scenes which sadly weren't kept in, though. One confusing factor, given that this is the first Jeeves novel written, was the casual references to other characters and amusing anecdotes that I'd already seen in the TV series but obviously hadn't in the books.

I laughed frequently throughout the novel, and sometimes worried about waking people up in the next room when I was reading in bed. Having read this I'm definitely going to look out for the rest of the series.


Next up: Nymphomation by Jeff Noon

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