Jeeves and the Wedding Bells – Sebastian Faulks

Times have changed, and roles have been reversed. It is Bertie Wooster who is up with the larks and having to arrange tea and such for Lord Etringham. To any fan, do not fear, the whole world of Wodehouse has not been turned upon its head. It is just Bertie getting himself into another pickle and needing Jeeves to ascertain all the right facts and get him out of the situation in only the way that Jeeves can.

There are wonderful passages of conversation between Bertie and Jeeves as we discover that maybe Bertie has finally found the woman who has made his heart flutter more continuously. Whilst dreaming away the days Bertie meets Georgiana in Cannes, she is a woman with spark and vitality and has none of the lesser qualities that have dogged past loves like Madeline Bassett and Honoria Glossop. There is only one small problem her guardian has other ideas on who she should marry based on the fact that his stately home. Can Bertie make the right impression when he is in fact doing an impression of Jeeves? There is plenty of mishaps and misunderstandings along the way in true style and whilst perhaps there is a slight overtone of too contemporary now and again these glimpses are momentarily and you are drawn back into the story.

Sebastian Faulks rightly acknowledges that this book is a tribute to Wodehouse and the wonderful characters of Jeeves and Wooster and I know some myself included were probably sceptical about an author taking up the mantle of another work. I think Faulks has hit the right spot, it reminds me of all the stories I have read in the past and makes me want to pick up these books and read more of them. I hope those who discover this book without reading any Wodehouse also discover his back catalogue and know that there is much joy and humour held within the pages whether it be a short story or a novel.

Sebastian Faulks is an author I have read before, the wonderful and moving Birdsong as well as Charlotte Gray and then his reworking of another famous author Ian Fleming and his most famous hero; James Bond. I was surprised that he wanted to pick up that mantle again with Wodehouse. But it turns out he is a fan and has read the stories as a boy, as I did as a young girl. I was keen to read the book and I was even prepared to pay for a hardback copy! It only took a couple of days to devour. 

I recommend reading this book and I am going to endeavour to go back and reread some more Jeeves and Wooster in particular. I can reread these books with no apparent boredom. Even watching the tv series starring Fry and Laurie countless times has not dented the enjoyment. This book will stay on my shelf and it will be worthy of a reread for that I am sure. 

What has sparked an interest is the fact that I have not read anymore Bond novels by other authors such as William Boyd and Jeffrey Deaver when I enjoyed the reworking of Faulks version. And with Sophie Hannah writing a novel in the style of Christie and the eponymous Belgian detective Poirot it seems there is a taste for such things. Or if I have my cynical hat on is it these authors estates needing money? Well if it is and the output is as good then so what. 

Very Good, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

There comes a time where only Jeeves and Wooster will do. You need to know very little about these two apart from Bertie Wooster’s schemes will fail and it is Jeeves who will silently pick up the pieces and put everything back together in the correct way.

In this book which contains 11 short stories which are linked by the fact they refer back to previous events, but they contain enough background to be able to understand the current story. They are a great introduction to Jeeves and Wooster and Wodehouse writing as well as the characters of Bingo Little, Tuppy Glossop, Bobby Wickham and the various aunts who are the scourge of a family according to Bertie.

There is some wonderful observations dispensed by Bertie at the pen of Wodehouse which I think is what makes these books so enjoyable, light and humourous;

on describing Tuppy’s new love…..”be an upstanding light-heavy-weight of some thirty summers, with a commanding eye and a square chin…I don’t know why it is , but women who have anything to do with Opera, even if they’re only studying for it, always appear to run to surplus poundage.”

on encountering a policeman….”when a sudden bright light shone upon me from below and a voice spoke. “Ho!” it said. It was a policeman. Apart from the fact of his having a lantern, I knew it was a policeman because he had said ‘Ho!’….evidently policeman are taught this as part of their training. And after all, it’s not a bad way of opening conversation in the sort of circs in which they generally have to chat with people.”

There are lots of little snippets like these two throughout the book and they form part of the stories as the book bounces lightly on in the adventures of Wooster and the Very Good, Jeeves.

A one for Jeeves and Wooster fans, and for those who want to put their toe into the Wodehouse water and see whether it is for them.

I so wish I had not got rid of all my copies of Jeeves and Wooster novels (yes I really did!) as they are just a joy to read. I have only kept to Jeeves and Wooster mainly because of the excellent programme with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie which led me to the books when I was in my late teens, early twenties. I need to branch out a bit more and did so last year with a Psmith novel which crossed over with Blandings, so it is back to Blandings I must go. 

Authors in July – Part 1

July is the month where I have met and listened to authors galore!

At the beginning of the month, I met three authors whose books I have never read. Some might call that shameful, that I would go and listen to someone speak about something I knew nothing about, others might call it brave, I call it broadening my horizons, expanding my book shelves and shrinking my purse!

So who were they?

Marika Cobbold - Born in Sweden and now living in London. Marika has ‘established a reputation for astute and acerbic romances’ (The Independent). Her latest, ‘Drowning Rose’, is about the terrible shadows cast by grief and guilt. 

Marika was a delight. I loved listening to her talk and could have listened for a lot longer than the allotted hour. She took us through her new novel Drowning Rose, the book which does not seem to fit into a particular genre. (I have to confess to liking books that do that – I see it as a test for booksellers and the ilk) It was interesting to hear especially about the large influence that supermarkets have on books! Who would have thought, that they would be the ones pulling at the publishing world and dictating what was required.

I certainly cannot wait to read this book, and even started it whilst waiting for Marika herself.

Her background was fascinating and I was most interested in hearing what books she liked to read especially the fact that she read the Swedish translation of P.G. Wodehouse and could also remember it quite clearly! My question, to her – was it as funny and even when you read it in English? The answer – yes! Interesting to also learn about the business of translated fiction, and what can be lost in translation. Much it seems.

Thank you Marika for personally signing my book and making it unique.

Tom Campbell – Tom is the former cultural strategy manager to the Mayor of London. His highly entertaining first novel, ‘Fold’ is about five men who meet every month for a game of poker.

What a difference in style with this author. Tom read out some passages of his book, and what was read out reminded me of the Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby books I have read. The male perspective of what makes males not very nice characters. Although I think perhaps he might be too harsh.

Tom has explored the way men behave when they get together in almost pack form as wolves. Women seem to form roles, they can chat and have no issue and time passes. Men have to have a common purpose, in this case Poker, and the one upmanship that arrives, who has the better job, house, woman etc.

Questions from the audience I thought were interesting – why poker, why not something else? Many other activities gather men in a group. Can you play poker, and did it help with the book? The book was written in the slack time when there was a restructure at the Mayor’s office in London. Are we having to wait for another slack period before the next novel? (My question!) (No – his answer). Only one question about his time with the Mayor of London – was Boris a buffoon or really quite clever? Answer – if he was interested, he was interested, if he wasn’t well……

Read about Tom here in this article.

Vanessa Gebbie – Prize winning short story write. Her debut novel “The Cowards Tale” is set in a Welsh mining village, haunted for generations by a local pit disaster.

Vanessa is a writer, whether it is a few lines, short stories or a novel. Words are her business. This novel took a long time to write, in between her teaching, her short stories, judging and being Vanessa.

Vanessa read a very moving piece from her novel and having not read it, I was certainly moved to want to read it even more. She has drawn on her past, her childhood visits to her grandparents in Wales to bring to life something quite extraordinary. Memories are often made of food – and this talk from Vanessa was such. The Sandwich Spread sandwiches, jelly, tinned fruit and evaporated milk.

A new memory here, as to accompany Vanessa was a WI tea with a very Welsh theme; bara brith and Welsh cakes as well as sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and glorious cups of tea in WI cups and saucers. I wish I had taken a picture of the cups as alas I cannot find any online. The bara brith was just moorish and I am desperate to make my own, with butter spread on it as well. Read about Vanessa’s take on it here.

Vanessa has also sparked an interest in short stories more, something which for some reason I have not avoided but never ventured into before.

What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon with these three authors. Where was I – The West Meon Festival of Books. This is a three day festival held in the main at West Meon Church and the Village Hall. I have never been before but had seen advertisements about it and as West Meon is only about a 30 minute drive from me through beautiful countryside it was well worth the journey. I had also been tipped off about the WI tea as a must see – which was the catalyst for going really.

What a wonderful place, the church is to hold such an event. Beautiful wooden pews, with doors on the end, and little heaters inside each one. Needed on this particular weekend due to the rather inclement weather we have been having. The journey was rather interesting on the way there and back, and thank goodness for quiet country roads as I was invariably driving on the wrong side due to the depth of the puddles caused by the torrential rain.

The weather would have made it a much better day for many I feel. Not least the poor woman in the church doorway making sure you had paid etc.

The numbers were very small and an interesting range of ages in the audience. I am always fascinated by why they are there and what is their story as you never know the full picture. Something which Marika Cobbold touched on when she was talking about her writing, we never know the full story – books can give us that, the author can tell us everything.

The festival is run in conjunction and with the help of One Tree Books of Petersfield. One of the very few independent book shops in my local area. It is in its 3rd year, and I hope will continue next because I certainly want to go again, and learn about new authors, new books and perhaps some ones I already know about too!

May Roundup

Well what a difference a month makes – after the showers in April we had the May Flowers and the heat, although as the month ends and we go to a bumper bank holiday bonanza the weather has cooled somewhat. The reading perhaps has not.

Crime is the major theme, mainly because the Crime Fiction Alphabet started towards the end of May. Each week, taking a letter of the alphabet in turn, post something – crime and book related obviously! I knew what B was going to be, as I read that book last month, but the review has only just appeared which is why I am highlighting it to you again – Barry Lyga and I Hunt Killers.  So for A I could have concentrated on Agatha Christie and some ways I did, but I actually picked the wonderful Ariadne Oliver for this one and the book Third Girl. Two ticks – one for the Crime Fiction Alphabet and one for reading AC’s books! Crime for the alphabet continued rather unexpectedly with Ann Cleeves and Silent Voices*. This came up as a Kindle Daily Deal for 99p and because the television adaptation had just been on (cynically probably why the offer was on as well!) I thought I would give it a go. Excellent read and C was done so one step ahead of June. I am trying not to get in a pickle about this challenge, so if I post late well I post late but I will try my best to keep to the schedule.

Crime took a very different turn with Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body by M.C. Beaton which was a review copy for newbooks magazine, hopefully my review will appear in the next issue. I had jumped a number of books to read this, and I know I need to go back and read some more, as there was plenty that had happen to Agatha that I knew nothing about. Anyway, it is another tick for one of my personal challenges for this year so that is good.

A new book and author to me in the crime variety was James Runcie – Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.  This has been mentioned on many blogs over the past few months and now the book has arrived it is simply wonderful and I cannot believe I am going to have to wait so long for the next one. It was a netgalley review, but I actually want to go out and buy this book so it can live happily in my home waiting for the next instalment. Wonderful short stories that all interconnect about Sidney Chambers, a Canon, young for his age in the Fifties who seems to have a nose for crime.

I went for some authors I knew in the month of May. A rather boring month at work where I am really quite fed up, I wanted some comfort in reading. This came in two forms – Katie Fforde and Going Dutch and Trisha Ashley and Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues. The former is an author I have only discovered this year, which I have wittered on about before now. I am so enjoying her work and delighting in all those I have not read.  The latter is actually Trisha’s new novel, and returns to Sticklepond where a previous book Chocolate Wishes was set. I do not think I have perhaps given the book enough coverage considering it is the most recently published but please if you have time pop and see my review. I so want to live in Sticklepond and be part of a community with some fantastic people and be able to bake cakes and savouries and eat chocolate! Trisha also has released a short story for the Jubilee do go and have a look here.

Familiar authors continued with P.G.Wodehouse but an unfamiliar tale – Leave it to Psmith. This is in fact a double whammy of Wodehouse I discovered. Psmith is a character that features in his own set of stories. In this particular one he is at Blandings. I have read nothing of either, sticking in the past to Jeeves and Wooster. However, to learn of Blandings coming to the BBC. I wanted to have a go. What I got was a priceless piece of witty literature and I am so grateful that I actually discovered Wodehouse in my late teens and early twenties and can continue to enjoy him.

My final book does not fit into any of the themes, genres or categories above and it is a return to novels which looking back I have not read for a while. The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn* is a debut novel and what a debut. Set during and after the First World War, this romantic tale pulls you right in, weaving some sort of spell over me as I had to keep reading it.

So that was May, and I finished it reading Room by Emma Donoghue which is my book club’s choice and that review will appear and count in June!

So on with June then!

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.

Leave it to Psmith – P.G. Wodehouse

Lord Emsworth of Blanding’s Castle has but one love it seems, his garden and the various conflicts he has with his gardener Angus McAllister. However his sister Lady Constance has another love; one which seems to be of the fashion – hosting literary types at the castle.  Already installed at Blanding’s is Miss Peavey, a poetess. With the incoming arrival of Ralph McTodd another poet, Lord Emsworth’s quiet existence is set to be disturbed. 

Lord Emwsorth’s son has his sights on a business opportunity but is missing one vital ingredient, the money. Lord Keeble, husband of Lady Constance has relinquished his control of his money upon marriage. He can see only one way – the theft of his wife’s diamond necklace.

Phyllis, Lord Keeble’s stepdaughter wants money for her husband to buy some land. Her friend, Miss Halliday is earning it by cataloguing Blanding’s castle. Mr Baxter the efficient Blanding’s secretary earns it by working there. To solve all the financial problems that seem to be arising enters the saviour of the day; Ronald Eustace Psmith (the p is silent):

‘Peasmith, sir?’

‘No, No. P-s-m-i-t-h. I should explain to you that I started life without the initial letter, and my father always clung ruggedly to the plain Smith. But it seemed to me that there were so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be introduced. Smythe I look on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking another name on in front by means of a hyphen. So I decided to adopt the Psmith. The p, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan. You follow me?’

Psmith needs his own money after breaking away from the family business of fish. No job is too small or large for Psmith as long as it has nothing to do with fish.

So begins the farcical movements of the characters that Wodehouse creates and the desire to be the one that gets the diamond necklace. A joy to read and witty humour on each page as you turn, as the plot thickens and not everyone is as they seem, and all seem to have some sort of a connection to each other without even realising. It was enough to make my head spin but in such a joyous finny way.

If you have never read any Wodehouse before, then this is as good as book as any to start with. Those familiar with Jeeves and Wooster will recognise the location of the Drones Club, and their inhabitants like the monocle wearing, witty if not rather ineffectual Psmith who despite adventures seems so nonplussed about it all. I look forward to reading more of Psmith and also about Blanding’s Castle.

My reasoning for picking up a Wodehouse and a Blanding’s Castle one at that was the news that the BBC have commissioned a 6 part series based on the stories.  I have read many Jeeves and Wooster and delight quite often at the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie television adaptation. So being of the read the book before kind of person I wanted to be one step ahead of the programme making and as such picked up this book in my local library. 

The first book was not available when I was there so I picked up this one as it was the second in the series, and I look forward to heading back to the first and continuing with the rest! When writing the review, I poked about with a bit of research about the book and discovered that whilst only being the second in the Blanding’s series of novels it is in fact the fourth (and final) book where the character Psmith takes virtual centre stage. The dilemma now being, I will need to seek out the other three preceding books featuring Psmith;  Mike and Psmith, Psmith in the City, Psmith, Journalist. Success has pointed me in the direction of Project Gutenberg where these books can be found! What ho!

It is such a joy to have found Wodehouse again, and I curse myself nearly everyday for actually giving away the Jeeves and Wooster books I had collected and wish they were delighting a shelf somewhere in my flat. I will have to start again…….

Do go and have a look at the Wodehouse website here which gives you lots of information about the books, the man himself and some wonderful cocktail recipes and quotes from Wodehouse novels. I repeat the one that was on the website whilst I was composing this post

“That’s the way to get on in the world – by grabbing your opportunities. Why, what’s Big Ben but a wrist-watch that saw its chance and made good.” (From The Small Bachelor)

Jottings #5 – Week, Wodehouse & World Book Night

A little jotting to say that if you did not know already but Monday is World Book Night. I picked up my books today. 24 copies of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Don’t they look lovely all together – but actually there is one missing already because I was cheeky gave one away to the Mortgage Adviser in the bank (it didn’t sway the mortgage), where I had an appointment which tied in with me visiting my local Waterstones to pick them up. She was thrilled and as she had just finished a book, did not know what to read next and had never read Rebecca. Result!

So what shall I do with all of these books – well give them away of course. And on the off chance that any readers and followers of this blog have NOT read this wonderful novel then please leave a message and I will send one out to you. I am a little bit nervous about giving them out to random people but I am sure it will be fine. Some of them are going to be given to friends for a Book Club that I have started at their behest. More about that in another post.

Robert Colville of the Telegraph writes an interesting piece on World Book Night about how giving out books gets people reading which is a good thing.

So what else is there to tell you about this week – it was the first week back at work after holidays. It was a tough one in more ways than I would imagine and has been rather challenging. Hopefully routine is back and the early mornings will not hurt so much now and I will be much settled next week. The swimming has been going well, so that is a bonus.

Always wanting to have something to look forward to and I am a bit late to perhaps be mentioning this as I see it was announced in Feb 2012 but the BBC have commissioned a television series of Blandings by P G Wodehouse. I have read nearly all of the Jeeves and Wooster stories but not Blandings so when I saw this was announced I wanted to see what they were like. Popping along to my local library I thought I would see what they had and picked up a book –  Leave it to Psmith.

Not that I need to be borrowing books from the library as I have enough at home to be read. But I did wander round, and saw lots of books that I can pop back and borrow. Especially those that I want to catch up on and will be good for the Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge coming up in May.

And then of course we have had rain……rain…….rain……

Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter – Simon Brett

Think Bertie Wooster but only much sillier then you have a fair idea of the characters of this book, “Blotto” in particular who goes by the correct title Right Ho. Devereux Lyminster finds that good old fashioned murder plot line has happened in his ancestral pile Tawcester Towers – “a body in the library”. His mother rightly dismisses it as frightfully inconvenient especially as they are in the middle of hosting a house party for the ex-King of Mitteleuropia and his wife the ex-Queen and their daughter, the ex-Princess. Blotto is dispatched to sort out such trifling matters without any involvement from the local authorities who are of no use whatsoever anyway.

Trouble is Blotto, likes two things hunting and cricket and his substantially small brain is taken up with that and not dead bodies, intrigue, plotting and ousting murderer’s for that he leaves it all to his sister, Lady Honoria Lyminster or “Twinks” as she has the brains to keep Blotto on the straight and narrow or at least focussed to the problem in hand.

As the body count increases and a kidnap plot is not foiled due to the incompetent belief in people, Blotto has to save family honour and travel to Mitteleuropia to see about restoring the ex-King as the the King. Not taking any chances he is accompanied by a Mitteleuropian manservant who seems to have the same taste in perfume as his sister, Twinks?

So with a few scuffles, a temptation, the threat of death and a bit of wielding a cricket back, somehow Blotto saves the day. But he will have to uphold family honour from his deed, but can Twinks save him from that fate or not?

This is a very silly book, and I cannot think of a better word to describe it really. If you are happy to perhaps suspend disbelief for a few hours then you will seek enjoyment in the book. The silliness extends to the continual references to the ex-King,  the usurper and plans made;

“But what if he tries to foil your plans to foil his plans to foil my plans?”

“Don’t worry, sir. I have a plan to foil his plans to foil my plans to foil his plans to foil your plans.”

“Good. I like people who think ahead.”

It is witty in parts, and can positively make you groan in others, there is plenty to make you smile especially about how English Blotto is, which perhaps gives weight to the period of this novel. However if you have never read any Simon Brett before now, I would recommend you start with any of the Fethering Mysteries and come back to these at a later date.

I picked this book up in the library, when I was browsing and spotted the name Simon Brett first. Having read all but three of his Fethering Mysteries I wanted to see what this one was like, and always a fan of crime in the comedic and cosy sort I decided I would not lose anything by checking it out the library. 

I started it whilst waiting for the bus back home (bus stop conveniently outside library and it was raining) and finished it a day later, but I think really at around 186 pages it took me only a few hours to read. It was not gripping enough for me to carrying on reading it and not do anything else.

They are currently on offer on Amazon Kindle for 99p (as I write this post) and I had dithered over trying one out, but something made me resist. Having read the book I now know why. How can you say that you do not want to read the next in the series of books, but at the same time you also want to? I think what perhaps I am getting at is, I would not part with money for these books even 99p but would happily pick them up if they appeared in the library? How fickle is that?