I recently read Sebastian Faulks’ attempt to be P.G. Wodehouse writing a Jeeves novel and looking at his earlier works I can’t imagine why they chose him. He wrote Charlotte Gray for goodness sake. And a Bond novel. And he denies that this is what he is doing “I’m just a fan” and doesn’t add so don’t blister my ear if I’m not Wodehousean enough for you, though frankly I don’t think you should shirk that if it comes your way. If you write a novel riding on someone else’s coattails, then accept the guff with the smooth. Or as in the actual Wodehouse novel I read immediately after (or rather sort of started midway) take a few smooths with a rough. But despite having a list of credentials which in no way seem to recommend him (Every cover is the sort of earnest piffle Bertram would steer clear of. Not a detective novel among ’em.), he didn’t do a bad job. Rather good, actually. I don’t quite see the point because there are something like 80 Wodehouse books. Only the most dedicated could have run out. But here it is. Bertie, in the south of France (and here things get confusing because the one I read semi-simultaneously Right Ho, Jeeves, also has Bertie in the South of France at the beginning) meets a lovely girl named Georgiana Meadowes. Georgiana for reasons of filthy lucre and saving the old homestead is going to marry some blighter and Bertie and Jeeves end up in the same house trying to help Bertie’s friend marry his beloved, Amelia. That both of these girls are cousins in the same house is Wodehousean enough. Jeeves ends up (starts off, really) disguised as one of the upper crust which leaves Bertie below stairs. A novel device as far as I know and it works all right. Bertie still sounds fairly Bertie-like. The beloved is a good character and though there are too many worldly mentions it seems to me (Jarring, you see. Pulls you out of their world and into this. All wrong. But then what can you expect from a man who wrote a book called Human Traces?) Jeeves and the Wedding Bells was entertaining and Wodehousean enough if you’ve read all the Wooster and Jeeves stories and desperately need a new one.
But since it had been a while and I wanted to see if Faulks was as far off as he seemed when I was first reading it (I think I have to say he wasn’t. I was bothered at first by every little thing and later on just relaxed and read it.) So, I pulled up Right Ho, Jeeves which I’d put on my Kindle a year and bit ago. I read a lot of Wodehouse in my teens and twenties, but not much since. As I mentioned before the two openings are oddly similar. Bertie has been in the south of France. But in this one it was with his cousin Angela and Aunt Dahlia – the one he likes. There is conflict with Jeeves over his new mess jacket and further conflict with Jeeves over Jeeves’ support of Bertie’s old friend Gussie Fink-Nottle the newt fancier.
I threw my mind back to the last time I had seen him. About two years ago, it had been. I had looked in at his place while on a motor trip, and he had put me right off my feed by bringing a couple of green things with legs to the luncheon table, crooning over them like a young mother and eventually losing one of them in the salad.
Gussie wants to marry Madeleine Bassett, but cannot work up the nerve to say so to her. Jeeves recommends going to a costume party
And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you– not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles
(It made me laugh to imagine a fancy dress ball in which every male is dressed as Pierrot) which will give Gussie the courage to speak to Miss Bassett. Bertie is quite sure that Jeeves’ great brain has withered. Jeeves is past it. So, Bertie decides to solve this and all following problems himself. Here’s a hint how that goes: Dahlia starts calling him Attila. Plotwise the similarities are great: country houses, broken engagements, misunderstandings between young lovers, but laughwise Wodehouse wins hands down. 5, at least, to 1/2. But then what would you expect from a man whose next book is titled Where My Heart Used to Beat?