Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bertie tries his best

Jeeves in the Offing, P.G. Wodehouse

Last month I commented that the Jeeves stories are not my favorites among P.G. Wodehouse's many books.  But the other day I was browsing in Half Price Books [which has been dangerous for the TBR stacks lately], and I saw this one on the shelves, in a bright shiny new-looking Arrow edition.  I didn't recognize the title - I keep thinking I've finally seen them all, and then another one sneaks up on me.  This book opens with Bertie answering a call from his Aunt Dahlia, who is the only decent aunt I've ever come across in Wodehouse's world.  She is telephoning to invite her favorite nephew down to her country home, Brinkley Court in Market Snodsbury.  Brinkley Court is the setting for two of my favorite of the Bertie and Jeeves books, Right Ho, Jeeves, and The Code of the Woosters.  So that pretty much sold me from the first page.  To discover that this book also involves the famous sterling silver cow creamer, which plays such a prominent role in The Code of the Woosters, just proved how right I was to add it to my shelves.

Aunt Dahlia, also known as Mrs. Thomas Travers, hasn't invited Bertie just for the pleasure of his company.  She has a mission for him.  Staying at Brinkley Court are Aunt Dahlia's god-daughter Phyllis Mills and her stepfather Aubrey Upjohn, Bertie's old headmaster from prep school, a martinet with a heavy caning hand.  Also in residence are Mrs. Adela Cream and her son Willie, who are staying with Aunt Dahlia while the senior Mr. Cream works out a big business deal with Dahlia's husband Tom.  Dahlia is under strict instructions to make the Creams' visit a pleasant one, to sweeten the business deal.  Unfortunately, before Bertie arrives, she learns that Willie Cream is a New York playboy, and since he is spending a lot of time with Phyllis, she assigns Bertie to play third wheel.  However, Bertie arrives reeling from an announcement in the Times of his engagement to Bobbie Wickham, who also happens to be staying at Brinkley Court.  And while Bertie did once propose to Bobbie, who turned him down, he can't remember doing it again recently, and he isn't as keen on the idea now anyway.

Bertie arrives not only reeling but alone, since Jeeves is off on his annual holiday, shrimping in Herne Bay.  As usual, he tries to cope as best he can with his new fiancĂ©e, his aunt's expectations, the unusual butler he finds installed at Brinkley Court, and the sudden disappearance of the cow creamer.  Of course he gets into trouble.  Stephen Fry wrote that Bertie is "not intelligent within the meaning of the act," but "he is loyal, kind, chivalrous, resolute and magnificently sweet-natured."   That's what gets him into trouble, time and again.  He can't resist a friend in need or a damsel in distress - and they know it.  As usual, Jeeves is the only one who can find a way out of the coils that wind around poor Bertie.  Here he nobly cuts short his shrimping holiday to join Bertie at Brinkley Court.

I really enjoyed this book.  There was one plot twist that caught me by surprise - well, two, if you count the fate of the cow creamer.  I hereby retract any slighting comments I have made about the Jeeves and Wooster stories.  Actually, I think I'll start calling them the Bertie stories, since he's really the reason I read them.

8 comments:

  1. I haven't read this one yet or The Code of the Woosters either. I'll look forward to encountering the silver cow creamer!

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  2. Hahaha, I totally read them for Bertie and not Jeeves too. AND I prefer the Psmith books to the Bertie ones, but even so, I need to go back to the Bertie books. The only reason I've not read more of them is Psmith partisanship, and that's a silly reason. :p

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  3. Helen, it's quite a memorable cow creamer :) The art museum here sometimes has silver on display, but I've yet to see a cow creamer.

    Jenny - oh Psmith! I've been under his spell for years, and I don't think that's a silly reason at all!

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  4. I still need to read some of these novels - you always make them sound so enticing. I think they sound like good summer reading.

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  5. Just reading your review makes me itch to pick up a Jeeves and Wooster book again. As it is, I'm starting a reread of Leave It to Psmith so at least I'll get my Wodehouse fix (and some time with my favourite Wodehouse character). Still, it's been too long since I spent any time with Bertie. I love that quote from Stephen Fry - so perfect!

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  6. Anbolyn, you're right about the summer reading. But this was also a perfect antidote to a stressful week at work.

    Claire, I saw Psmith on your sidebar - and with Jenny's comment above, I had this sudden compulsion to spend some time with him myself.

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  7. Is this the one with the magnificent telegrams between Bertie and Aunt Dahlia? They're one of my favourite things in all Wodehouse.

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  8. Gert, thanks for stopping by. This one does have some telegrams between them, and I agree they are always funny. Dahlia is a lot ruder to him by telegram than she is In person. But it doesn't seem to bother Bert in much, he must be used to it by now.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!