What I've been reading
This is the first Wodehouse book I've ever read, and I wouldn't have ever read it if I hadn't borrowed this book from someone with whom I no longer speak and simply forgot to return it. It came time for me to read it, though (I read my books in alphabetical order by author - most of the time - and I'm on the "W"s), so I plopped down and zipped through it. It clocks in at less than 200 pages, after all, and Wodehouse's style is extremely breezy and fast.
It's a fun book, but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. This is one of Wodehouse's last books (he died in 1975), and maybe he had gotten so good at the "Jeeves" stories that he mailed this one in. That's a bit harsh, I guess - for what it wants to be, it's a nice little read. I zipped through it, laughed a few times, and enjoyed the strength of the book - the affectionate relationship between Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, who always pulls Bertie's fat out of the fire. The plot of the book is largely inconsequential - it involves a book in which butlers are supposed to write about their employers, which is stolen and can cause some embarrassment to Bertie and one of his friends if it comes out into the open. There's also a political campaign, and Bertie finds himself almost engaged a few times to women he does not want to be engaged to, and it all works out in the end. It's a clever enough plot, but not anything to get worked up about.
Mainly, the charm of the "Jeeves" stories seems to come from the banter of the characters. Bertie is supposed to be a bit dim, and he is, and Jeeves is a magic valet who solves every problem, no matter how intractable. He is, after all, Super-Butler. There are some odd things about the tone of the book - it's obviously set in a "modern" era, as there are cars, and a brief search shows that this is supposed to be 1930s England. It reads, however, very Wildean, as if this was some kind of Edwardian drawing-room comedy. It's a weird dissonance between the way the people act, which is from an earlier age, and the actual time frame. Perhaps that's what Wodehouse was trying for; I haven't read enough to know. But it's weird.
The biggest problem with the book in terms of plot is that because Wooster narrates, we often miss Jeeves at work. Again, I suppose that's part of the point, but when the problems that the principals face in this book are at their most binding, Bertie decides he needs to flee to London for a day. When he returns, Jeeves has solved everything, and we only find out what happened second hand. If you've seen No Country for Old Men, you know one of the criticism levelled at it is that we don't see the final deadly confrontation. This is similar in that we only hear about the solutions Jeeves comes up with second-hand. It's odd.
Despite that, this is a charming book. Although I linked to a place where you can buy this, I would recommend getting it out of the library. It's not something that's going to change your life, and it's somewhat forgettable (which is why I wouldn't buy it). But it's a nice book for an afternoon read or two. It's far more amusing than a lot of "summer" books that you're supposed to take to the beach.
Everyone's favorite stuffed bull, Bully, does a far better job with Wodehouse than I do. Check out his posts here! I'll probably try to find some more Wodehouse eventually. He's fun to read.