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):
‘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)