by: P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse is my absolute favorite feel-good author. He has a delightful sense of humor and the perfect light touch; one can never finish one of his books without smiling. I’ve only read his Bertie and Jeeves books, but I do love them. Though I actually prefer to listen to the audiobooks for these, rather than actually reading. (Something about a narrator with a British accent and a perfect sense of timing makes these the perfect books to listen to.)
Bertram Wooster, generally known as Bertie, is our narrator: a young English buck, genial and good-natured with a brain full of fluff. Bertie’s guardian angel is Jeeves, mastermind and butler extraordinaire, who has a gigantic brain – probably from all that fish oil, Bertie asserts. Bertie constantly finds himself in trouble – he has aunts aplenty to aggravate him; he often finds himself engaged (and good manners prevent him from refusing a woman); and it seems that jealous lovers, rouge nephews, and tetchy uncles are constantly endangering his life.
Bertie Wooster Sees it Through is no exception. His Aunt Dahlia, a lovely old relation (and not to be confused with the horrid Aunt Agatha) calls upon him to help her persuade a gent to buy her failing magazine, Milady’s Boudoir. Bertie himself is preparing for the Darts competition at his club, where it is generally thought that he’ll take home the prize. He’s been bet on by Stilton Cheesewright, a man who is currently engaged to Florence, an intellectual girl whom Bertie found himself engaged to, and then unengaged to, a few books back. Florence, author of the novel Spindrift is working with screenwriter and poet Percy Gorringe to produce a play based on her book; sadly, they find themselves 1000 pounds short after a backer suddenly falls through. And to top it all off, Jeeves is back from vacation and he strongly disapproves of Bertie’s new mustache.
Confused yet? Wodehouse writes a whirlwind of merriment, where his delicate touch gives even the most mundane of sentences a lilting, laughing touch. This is escapism fiction at its finest – nothing bad can ever occupy your mind while lost in the world of Bertie and Jeeves. This is one of the better Bertie and Jeeves adventure – they’re all excellent, of course, but some are more excellent than others. Now, the books follow a fairly predictable broad structure, but that’s part of their charm. Something about the structure allows your mind to fully immerse in Wodehouse’s wonderful command of the English language.
Bertie is at his finest here, using his brains, such as they are, to ward off impeding danger from Cheesewright and finding himself hampered by his own initiative. What I like most about BWSIT, in particular, is that Bertie is forced to find a few solutions without Jeeves (!), temporary though they may be, but he is still reliant on Jeeves. It’s a nice mix of Jeeves’ amazing competence and Bertie’s, well, Bertie-ness. There’s also a certain nonchalance that Bertie displays, that engagements come and go but there’s no real danger of being married, that really adds to the humor.
There’s not wordplay; here, the charm exists in the turn of phrase; Bertie’s less-than-average intelligence makes his observations all that more hilarious. The humor is nearly all situational but it’s not raunchy or objectionable – you could play the audiobooks with children around without a worry in the world. A good quote from the very beginning, on aunts: “Well, this Dahlia is my good and deserving aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha, the one who kills rats with her teeth and devours her young, so when she says Don’t fail me, I don’t fail her.”
If you love charming words, dry British humor, or humor in general, and if you need a book to escape into that will make you laugh and lift your spirit, I recommend Bertie Wooster Sees it Through (particularly the audiobook). If your sense of humor runs more exclusively towards explicitly overt comedies, like “Wedding Crashers” or “The Hangover,” or straight-out slapstick humor, like the Stooges, than this may not be your cup of tea.