Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I Read in July

What I Read in July . . .

French LeaveFrench Leave by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction Romantic Comedy

The Trent sisters in Bensonhurst, Long Island, New York are small-time chicken farmers. They get by selling eggs and honey to locals, like Mr. Clutterbuck, the publisher. Then they manage to come into some money - not a lot - but enough to have a grand holiday in France! Jo wants to marry a millionaire and Terry wants to have fun and hopefully fall in love. Practical eldest sister Kate wants to invest the money. The younger sisters head off to France for a gay time, with Kate in tow to make sure they stay out of trouble. First they head to St. Rocque on the Brittany coast, where Jo will pretend to be rich and Terry will pretend to be her maid. Then they will switch roles in Roville. The action of the story takes place largely in Roville where Terry encounters a trouserless mineral water millionaire, a debonair Marquis, a young man who looks like Gregory Peck with a scar on his chin and a host of other characters who will turn her life Topsy-turvey!

I had a hard time getting into this story at first but once the story switched to Roville, it got much more interesting. The plot is full of typical Wodehouse zaniness, especially at the end. It has some cute moments but nothing laugh out loud funny. The epilogue was unnecessary and largely boring until the twist is revealed. That made it much funnier. The big misunderstanding is actually a series of misunderstandings that are rather amusing. The first happens fairly early and I was left wondering how the plot would be resolved with half the book to come, but with everything else that happens afterwards, the story doesn't drag. In fact, it picked up so much I couldn't put it down. Aside from a few references to the war and a few other minor things, this story could be Edwardian. The basic idea is the same. There are a few ethnic slurs about the French that creep into the characters' speech but only in reference to the casino.

The characters are nothing to gush over. They're fairly typical Wodehousian characters. Aunt Hermione could match Lady Constance in the Blandings Castle saga snobby look for snobby look. She's actually a bit worse! Old Nick is an aristocratic French version of Galahad Threepwood's pals. I didn't care for the Old Nick at first. He's arrogant, unethical and completely clueless as to why people don't like him, however, I found myself liking him more at the end of the story. He provides a lot of color in an otherwise bland story. Jeff is a little too good to be true and Freddie is not as clueless as his English namesake in Blandings Castle, but cut from the same cloth. The women are treated better here than in any other Wodehouse novel. They actually have personalities, though each one is a stereotype. I liked Terry very much. She's dreamy, yet practical. She knows she's poor and isn't bothered by it. Jo doesn't appear in the story very much so I don't know if I like her or not. Kate is a stereotypical eldest sister. She's tough and hard and the male characters are rather afraid of her. I didn't really like her much.

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