Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week Part 1 . . .

Something Fresh (Blandings Castle, #1)Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Romantic Comedy 

Ashe Marson is a hack writer of detective fiction and bored to death with his job. He meets Joan Valentine, another hack writer who hates her job. Joan has worked as an actress, a lady's maid and any other work she can get. She encourages Ashe to find something new. Mr. Peters, a brash American businessman is about to marry his only daughter Aline to the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, younger son of Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle. Freddie is terrified a past indiscretion will come to light and cause a scandal. Freddie needs this marriage for his father has cut off his allowance. Freddie hires the seedy R. Jones to help her out of his predicament. When Mr. Peters discovers his most valuable scarab is missing from his collection, his knows Lord Emsworth took it. The situation is tricky since the two men will soon be related. He takes his anger out on Aline who turns to her old school mate Joan for comfort and advice. Joan proposes she pose as Aline's lady's maid in order to steal the scarab back. Peters is sure to offer an aware. He advertises for a
"Young Man of Good Appearance who is poor and reckless, to undertake delicate and dangerous enterprise." Ashe is eager for the job, despite not knowing how to act as a valet. He refuses to allow Peters to bully him. Ashe knows he can get the scarab back but he hasn't counted on Joan, who is equally confident. Both of the would-be -thieves have to get past the Efficient Baxter, secretary to Lord Emsworth. The Efficient Baxter knows someone is out to steal His Lordship's important gift from Peters. The situation becomes increasingly complicated. On the romance side, the bride-to-be is miserable and her former beau, a policeman, is determined to win her hand in marriage. Ashe discovers he's madly in love with Joan and winning the reward is more important than ever.

This is an early P.G. Wodehouse novel set solely in the English countryside. It deals with class and gender issues in a humorous plot. The plot is slow to take off. The beginning is formulaic and slow. I kept falling asleep and didn't really care to keep reading. The plot picks up 3/4 of the way through with a wacky scene in the best screwball comedy style. After that, a twist in the plot kept me reading until the end. The finale needed a few more pages to flesh out the story. Some of the action appears off page.

Joan is my favorite character. She's a feminist who believes women can do anything men can do and do it better. She's determined to be independent and strong. She isn't interested in chivalry and she pities Aline for not being able to stand on her own. Ashe isn't a very well developed character. He's kind of bland, in my opinion. He's a modern man in terms of health and fitness but also old-fashioned in terms of his attitude towards women and career outlook. His relationship with Joan takes a back seat to the mystery. The romance is very subtle. Ashe and Joan have some witty dialogue but they don't spend much time together. I wanted a bit more connection between them.

The secondary characters really shine. The butler with his constant health complaints made me giggle, as did the absentminded Lord Emsworth. He's not your typical English Lord! His dialogue is amusing, especially his thoughts. His actions during the screwball scene made me laugh out loud. Freddie is a typical young Englishman. He's not very bright and things just happen to him. Any time he tries to take action, something happens to prevent his plan from happening. He's sympathetic for all his faults. Lord Emsworth can't be easy to live with. Mr. Peters is rather a stereotypical brash businessman. Like other Wodhouse characters, he's overweight and unhealthy which showcases Wodehouse's belief in diet and exercise and clean, healthy living. Peters tries to be bold but like Freddie, circumstances remove control from his hands. It's not easy for Peters not to be in control but it makes the story funnier and also makes a more sympathetic character. Aline is my least favorite character. Being a modern woman, like Joan, I felt the same way about her as Joan did. She redeemed herself in the end though and her love triangle turns the plot towards the end. She's a good foil for Joan. Algernon Wooster makes a cameo in this novel.

This isn't my favorite Wodehouse novel. It's a little long but still light and a pretty good read.

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