If you have been reading this blog for a while then you may know that of late I have had an interest in reading novels that feature around schools. I have revisited some Blyton and reflected on some Christie, and basically everything in between. I was to discover that P.G.Wodehouse had written some ‘scholastic’ themed books.
Having never read anything other than Jeeves and Wooster books by Wodehouse, I was quite delighted to venture into something new with Tales of St Austin’s.
This book is actually a collection of short stories and essays (which I did not read I confess) based around the boys of the said school. First published in 1903 as a collection of stories, but they had appeared in various schoolboy magazines of the time. There is some link between them, as various characters pop up but they can be easily read as stand alone short stories.
They are not quite as humorous as Jeeves but there is many little quips and observations by the boys on their masters, their schoolwork, their tea and sport. I did feel somewhat confused at all the cricket references as they did rather pass me by as such. These are public school boys, and reading this book, one does wonder how our country did not grind to a halt (although that could be a debatable issue) with all these boys being are prospective civil servants, MPs, Lawyers, Doctors etc.
So which of the stories stuck out for me – The Tabby Terror, not because it was particularly good but because the boys had found their nemesis in the head’s cat who seemed intent on eating its way around school. Until one unfortunate incident.
A Story in Letters – is just that. I am rather fond of this formula appearing in books. Immediately I am drawn back to Cat Among the Pigeons where Agatha Christie uses the same technique. And that was a school based story.
These are early works by Wodehouse and I can see why, they are not quite as slick as subsequent Jeeves and Wooster novels. I cannot compare to his other work as I have yet to sample it but I will. But make no mistake they are definitely Wodehouse. Fun, especially the more quirky elements of fun but with an assumed knowledge of public schools, its unique slang and full of boys with their heads stuck in what I can only assume is Greek, Latin and the classics. Women are joyous and frivolous sisters or Master’s wives, they are the background to these boy’s life.
Stories you can read one or two and then move onto something, else popping back when required. I did not read the essays as I previously mentioned and I think in the main, because I was starting to lose the fun element of school life and felt like I was back at school!
I feel next time I head back to Wodehouse I am going to revisit some more Jeeves and Wooster. I need the silliness of Bertie and the acerbic wit and skill of Jeeves.
This book was read on my kindle via the Project Gutenberg Site. If you have the chance, pop over and see what other Wodehouse gems that are there.