The World of Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (Arrow Books, 2008) An omnibus of Jeeves and Wooster stories. (I feel silly even explaining what Jeeves and Wooster is about. If you don’t know already, shame on you. But, for the sake of form...) A series of short stories following the life of Bertie Wooster, one of a society of idle rich in a comic world created by one of the world’s greatest ever writers of sunny slapstick. Jeeves is Wooster’s “man”, taking care of every little thing for him, displaying a quiet cunning and an intelligence that contrasts sharply with his master’s loveable pompous idiocy. (There, did I catch it properly? No, I didn’t think so either...)
Here’s a GBR first. A review of a book that I haven’t finished. But I couldn’t help myself.
We’ve all seen Jeeves and Wooster on the telly, Fry and Laurie flexing their finest comedy muscles in a setting that seems made for them. The perfectness of their performance made me avoid the original for a while. I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. I didn’t want the Fry and Laurie version to be sullied by a version that failed to live up to them.
But, of course, PG Wodehouse didn’t write a version of Jeeves and Wooster. It’s Fry and Laurie that are doing the interpreting here. Wodehouse is the creator of this world, so sooner or later I had to dip in to see where the spark came from.
So I got this omnibus. Thirty-four Jeeves and Wooster stories, all about 20 or 30 pages long. Each following on from the last, all connected, all neatly packaged.
And that’s a key word, I think – “neat.” I’m not sure I can tell you anything you don’t already know about the worlds that Wodehouse creates. They’re all just plain wonderful. Sunny. Delightful. Pleasant. Comic. Wry. Warming. Consistently all these things. But neat too. It all adds up. It all plays out to a neat conclusion. It’s rewarding and fulfilling. It just all makes sense.
But why an omnibus? Why not pick up a full blown Wodehouse novel?
Well this omnibus has become my perfect reading companion, because it’s an amazing bridge between books. The World of Jeeves resets everything. It allows you to escape completely and come up at the end of each story utterly refreshed. After two or three stories from this omnibus, I’ve shaken off everything from the last full blown book I’ve read and am ready to get stuck into the next one.
And that’s how this book should be used. As the world’s most effective pallet cleanser. One day I’ll pick up a “proper” Wodehouse and read it start to finish. But in the meantime, these shots of Jeeves and Wooster are about as close to perfect reading as I’ve ever found.
I couldn’t sit down and read all 34 stories one after the other. If there’s a weakness to Wodehouse, it’s that the same plot tools get used time after time. After two or three of these, they tend to blend into one, and you can see what’s coming around the corner.
Not that that’s a bad thing. I love the structure of these stories. I think the world is a much richer place with them in it. If they changed entirely from one story to the next, they simply wouldn’t be Jeeves and Wooster. They’d lose their caught-in-time quality. They’d lose a lot of why I love them.
This book makes everything else I read better. It makes me happy when I read it. It refreshes me. It fills me with the life stuff that’s needed to attack something new. It is, without a doubt, the easiest GBR score I’ve ever given...
10 GBRThere, I did it, my first ten. And 100% deserved as well. If a book makes your whole life better, the least I can do is put all my thumbs up as high as I can for it.