Sunday, February 2, 2014

What I Read This Week

What I Read This Week . . .

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy

In New York, Mr. Peter Pett, a millionaire, has a nagging wife, a house full of upstart young wannabe intellectuals and a horrid, fat stepson in need of discipline. The only person in his family he likes and trusts is his niece Ann. Mr. Pett and Ann concoct a plan with the aid of his physical instructor Jerry to kidnap Ogden and send him to a dog hospital for good food and exercise. It's Mr. Pett's only hope of peace in his household. Before they can act on their plan, Mrs. Pett discovers the tabloid journalists have learned she is the aunt to the one they call "Piccadilly Jim" and she's outraged that her name is associated with this young man's terrible behavior and is determined to go to England to stop him and force him back to New York.  James Crocker is a young man about town in London. He's lazy and enjoys living off his stepmother's millions. His poor hen-pecked father is beside himself with homesickness for good old American baseball but his wife won't allow him to return home until he's made a peer. Jimmy's behavior is not helping especially as he's made an enemy of the one person who can aid Mrs. Crocker's ambitions. Jimmy would do anything for his dear old dad including going on the straight and narrow, but what can he do? Then he rescues a beautiful young American woman from being run over by a taxi and it's love at first sight. He decides to follow her back to America. The only problem is - Ann hates Jimmy Crocker for something he once did to her. Jimmy must pretend to be Mr. Bayliss, the son of a butler. Then, when he's in need of help, he has to pretend to be himself. How can he convince Ann that he's worthy of her hand in marriage if he can't even be himself? When Aunt Nesta Pett discovers strangers in her midst she fears for her precious Ogden and sets in motion a series of events that will lead to the hilarious conclusion of the novel. 

Piccadilly Jim is a screwball comedy of errors type story that can be enjoyed by teens and adults. The story starts off a little slow with lots of exposition, but once we meet Jimmy, the story takes off. It captured my attention enough to know how Jimmy got out of his predicament and hopefully won the hand of the woman he loves. Jimmy's scrapes are comical but not really laugh out loud funny but they did make me giggle towards the end. The romance develops nicely into a true meeting of minds. She is cynical which I didn't like too much but I can understand her feelings. There's a mystery plot woven into the story too. It doesn't make a lot of sense realistically but it works OK. It's funny anyway and again serves to further the romance.

I really liked Jimmy and found him vastly amusing. Do I think he's good husband material? Not really but he'll try and maybe he will grow up. His moment of awareness comes a little too suddenly to be truly believable but it works in terms of forwarding the plot and to kick off the romance plot. I love the dialogue between the h/h. It's witty and amusing. All of Jimmy's dialogue is witty. I especially love his exchanges with Osgood. I also liked the heroine (I'm trying not to spoil it but it is predictable). She's intelligent and forthright and knows how to roll with the punches when faced with insanity. The only other character who is likeable is Mr. Crocker, Jimmy's father, who steals every scene he's in, especially the later ones.

I really disliked the two domineering wives in this story. When it's an alpha male and a meek girl it's considered abusive and not funny and I didn't find it very funny the other way around either. The two husbands annoyed me for being so passive. I kept willing them to stand up to their wives. However, when I got to the end and the moral of the story, I understood that Wodehouse was making a commentary on marriage and the reasons why people should and shouldn't marry. I liked the message and maybe it can be understood throughout the novel if the reader is paying attention.

This is my first Wodehouse novel but it won't be my last. I recommend this to anyone who likes screwball comedies and subtle romances with witty dialogue.

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