Sometimes my own literary non-knowledge shames me. For some reason I had always assumed that P.G. Wodehouse was a terribly dull philosopher of some kind. Don’t ask. I have no idea where this notion came from.
I could not have been more wrong.
I was reading this interview with J.K. Rowling on my way to the library the other day (I think we have discussed my love of/obsession with J.K. Rowling?) and she mentioned that she would like to meet P.G. Wodehouse. She made him sound delightfully eccentric and my curiousity was piqued. It was a done deal when she mentioned that she would take the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse with her on a deserted island. When I arrived at the library I was resolved to find some Wodehouse to take home with me.
The day was grey and foggy and generally perfect for reading and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit was a delight. Wodehouse responsible for Jeeves! I was having quite an eye opening day.
In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Bertram Wooster is tasked with helping his Aunt Dahlia out of a jam when she needs to sell her newspaper to a man whose wife controls every aspect of his life. Bertram finds himself engaged no less than 3 times to a woman who is extremely fickle in love and who he really does not want to marry. He doesn’t even ask her, it just keeps happening. And, in what I assume is regular Wodehouse fashion, Jeeves is called upon to help get everyone out of all of these schemes.
I think that Bertie Wooster might be one of my favourite characters in literature. He’s a complete twit – in the first pages he’s grown a David Niven-esque moustache that everyone tells him looks ridiculous but he insists on keeping the status quo. He’s completely puffed up with self importance, refers to his Aunt Dahlia as “aged relative” to her face and is extremely keen on avoiding the fists of one Mr. Cheesewright.
I cannot tell you how delighted I was with this book. It starts out in London, in a comedic kind of Upstairs Downstairs, and eventually moves to a country house. Everyone knows that the best kinds of things happen at English country houses. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and more recently Alan Bradley and Kate Morton, are majorly responsible for this notion.
It’s a short book, just 212 pages, but it is filled with hijinx, capers and fantastic characters. The names that Wodehouse comes up with alone are worth the read. Lemuel Gengulphus! Tom Portarlington! G. D’Arcy Cheesewright! Having been a long time student of J.K. Rowling’s work I can honestly see that she had been heavily influenced by Wodehouse’s work. She does similar things with naming characters and her style of humour is also very similar.
If you love Rowling’s work, are keen on books set in English country houses and would be into an Agatha Christie type novel without dead bodies, you will love Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. I’d take it a step further and say you would enjoy any of Wodehouse’s work but having not read any more, I can’t be sure just yet.