Friday, October 1, 2010
Something Fresh - P G Wodehouse
Mr Peters’s daughter, Aline, is engaged to the Hon Freddie, more to please her father than because she’s in love. Freddie is concerned that a dancer he once sent poetry & love letters to will sue him for breach of promise because he can’t remember whether or not he ever proposed to her. He would have had to propose to her in writing because he never actually met her, he just loved her from afar. This dancer, Joan Valentine, is now an impoverished writer of magazine love stories, who lives in the same building as another writer, Ashe Marson. Ashe writes adventure stories starring Gridley Quayle, Investigator (the Hon Freddie’s favourite literary hero) & is in a rut & depressed about his future.
Freddie hires a shady character, R Jones, to track down Joan & buy back his love letters. Jones finds Joan, discovers that she has no idea who Freddie is & didn’t keep his letters, but he decides to string Freddie along & make some money out of him by telling him that Joan is demanding huge amounts of money for her silence. When Mr Peters discovers the theft of his scarab & then discovers that Lord Emsworth is proudly displaying it in his private museum at Blandings Castle, his already bad temper & terrible digestion threaten to explode. He doesn’t want to upset the wedding plans of Aline & Freddie & cause a scandal, so he decides to steal the scarab back while on a visit to Blandings. Ashe Marson answers a newspaper ad,
WANTED: Young Man of Good Appearance, who is poor and reckless, to undertake delicate and dangerous enterprise. Good pay for the right man. Apply between the hours of ten and twelve at offices of Mainprice, Mainprice & Boole, 3, Denvers Street, Strand.
and finds himself engaged to act as Mr Peters’s valet & steal the scarab. The reward is a thousand pounds. Aline Peters happens to be an old schoolfriend of Joan’s, & when Joan hears about the reward, she proposes to go along to Blandings as Aline’s maid & steal the scarab. The visit to Blandings is full of comic scenes & misunderstandings. Ashe & Joan find themselves thrown together in their new roles as imposters & rivals for the reward. Joan, who has done many different jobs in her short life, initiates Ashe into the mysterious hierarchy of the Servant’s Hall presided over by the butler, Beach, a man who suffers from a Weak Stomach, Swollen Joints & an Ingrowing Toe Nail.
Above stairs, Lord Emsworth is protected from the worst of his follies by his efficient secretary, Baxter, who is suspicious of Ashe & decides to guard the scarab by staying up all night in the museum. Even Baxter can’t prevent the scarab disappearing from the museum, though, & he sets himself to find the thief. Freddie, meanwhile, causes a scene by tripping over his Aunt’s cat, Muriel, as he’s coming downstairs & is confined to bed with the latest Gridley Quayle adventure to amuse him. All is resolved in the final chapters. The lovers find their true mates & Lord Emsworth decides to allow Freddie to return to his life in London as long as tries to stay out of trouble.
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover Wodehouse. This is the third book I’ve read (after The Inimitable Jeeves & Joy in the Morning which I listened to on audio) & I loved it. It’s full of mad characters & humour. Lord Emsworth is a wonderful character. I’m glad there are lots more Blandings novels, I think I’ll enjoy them as much as Jeeves & Bertie. I’ve also bought the complete Jeeves & Wooster TV series with Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry. It was on special at Amazon for a ridiculous $22 including postage so I could hardly resist, could I? It’s exciting to find a new author & to know that there are dozens of books ahead to read & enjoy.