What I Read in July Part IV . . .The Swoop! and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction/Comedy
This volume collects early stories by P.G. Wodehouse published in various magazines in England. They show the development of his writing style and humor.
In The Swoop, nine foreign armies conquer England while the public goes on as before. It takes a Boy Scout to figure out how to save England. This is a total nonsense story. I didn't quite understand it. I can see how it's supposed to be funny, especially pre-WWI, but I guess I didn't see the humor in it.
Bradshaw's Little Story is about schoolboys. I couldn't relate to this one at all and found it boring. Thankfully it's very short.
A Shocking Affair tells of further antics by the above schoolboy. This one is actually a little funnier and easier to relate to.
The Politeness of Princes is another schoolboy tale. It's unmemorable.
I skipped Shields' and the Cricket Cup not knowing or caring anything about Cricket or schoolboys.
An International Affair is about American one-stop shopping vs. English mom and pop enterprise. It could be a social satire on Wal*Mart if Wodehouse had lived long enough to see the rise of the big box store. I found it interesting that that sort of store started so early. It may be skewering Selfridge. The story itself is dull and I didn't really understand it.
The Guardian is another tale of two schoolboys. It's slightly more interesting than the earlier stories. It features a different sort of character and plot than the typical schoolboy antics. Neither character is likeable but it's a good story for boys. Boys going off to school could learn something from the story.
Something to Worry About is a light romance that pits the country vs. the city. A young woman is sent to the country to keep out of trouble and ends up creating more trouble. Wodehouse is never sappy or sentimental in his romances. I didn't like this one much because it shows a girl falling for cave man behavior.
The Tuppenny Millionaire is my favorite story of the bunch. Boring old predictable George Albert Balmer inherits a small fortune from a relative and intends to go on with his boring life as before until a co-worker goads him into doing something wild and crazy. This story gets a little zany but features a sweet romance. It's a very cute story.
Deep Waters is another sweet romance set in the theatrical world. It shows Wodehouse's intimate knowledge of the theater and the things people do to drum up business. I wish the story was a bit longer to develop the romance but I enjoyed it a lot.
The Goal Keeper and the Plutocrat is a star-crossed romance. It features satire of aristocrats and millionaires and rugby football. I thought the romantic plot was silly and unrealistic but both the characters are rather dim-witted. The story is infused with sly humor.
The stories in the collection get better as they go along. There's something for everyone in this anthology.
Pelican at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy
Clarence Threepwood, Lord Emsworth is tickled to have the Castle to himself for the first time ever. He can relax in his old, worn out clothes and eat plain English food in the library. The Empress is eating well and on her way to being a silver medal winner for the fourth time. Life is good! Not so fast! First, Lady Constance returns, announcing she's staying for the whole summer and her husband will join her; then she announces she is bringing a guest and the Duke of Dunstable has invited himself and a guest to stay at the Castle! As if things couldn't get any worse, the Empress refuses a potato, causing Lord Emsworth no end of worry. Galahad shows up for moral support, bringing along his godson, John Halliday, who wants to marry Linda Gilpin, niece of the Duke of Dunstable. (Linda also being in residence at Blandings). As usual there are imposters at Blandings and it's up to Galahad to fix everything to rights, as the last remaining member of the Pelican Club.
This story fell flat. It's the same old story but lacks a lot of the zaniness that characterizes Wodehouse's stories. There are a couple of amusing scenes but nothing that approaches the level of scenes involving Baxter. There's not much of a plot. I was pretty much done with the book before I realized it. I kept waiting for something to happen. Everything is wrapped up too neatly and easily. It was greatly disappointing that the Empress did not play a larger role. It seemed as if she would but then she disappears from the story only to serve as a catalyst for some of the plot in passing.
The new characters are entirely unmemorable. Linda is a nice young woman, though hardly in the story. John is a nice young man but gives in too easily. In short - they're boring. Nothing is fully explained about one of the impostors and I was left wondering what their story was. Wilbur Trout is an older version of the weak young men who frequently visit Blandings. Vanessa Polk is an interesting character. She's the only one with any personality but the outcome of her story seemed a little weird to me.