Last week I wrapped up reading my Wodehouse pick (read for the April edition of the Reading to Know Book Club), Jeeves in the Morning. This title was originally published as Joy in the Morning and is being published under that title again. (Apparently it was titled Jeeves in the Morning for brief period of time in America only and I own a copy as that.)
Some critics have hailed this title as Wodehouse's finest. That's not why I read it. I read it because it was the Jeeves & Wooster title on my shelf which I had not read. And I think you'll find reasons to quibble about which Wodehouse work is his best as everyone seems to enjoy a different character or storyline. The one thing most people tend to agree on is that Wodehouse must be read because his writing is delightful. I think this is true. If you didn't read along with the book club this past month, I hope you'll make time for a Wodehouse at some point. I can't imagine you'll regret it.
In Joy in the Morning characters Bertie Wooster and his servant Jeeves are being called to Steeple Bumphleigh, a country village where Bertie has no desire to go. His Aunt Agatha lives in Steeple Bumpleigh and he does not like his Aunt Agatha and makes objections to the visit. However, Jeeves' logic persuades Bertie that he has a duty to travel to Steeple Bumpleigh and assist his uncle in arranging a secret business meeting. Bertie is cheered to discover that his aunt will be out of town and so off to Steeple Bumpleigh he and Jeeves go.
Of course, as is the usual for Bertie, he runs into a female (in this case, an old flame) who wants to marry him but whom he has no wish to marry. Romances are falling apart everywhere and growing in places that no one wants. Life becomes a complicated mess and it is Jeeves - and only Jeeves - who can apply some thought and logic to bring about happy resolutions to everyone's problems. Jeeves is the hero and Bertie is appreciative. Even if this particular story about Wooster and Jeeves sounds similar to others, you don't mind reading about the particulars in this one because Wodehouse has a delightful way of turning a phrase in order to make the reader laugh.
Here are a few of my favorite passages:
"It has been well said of Bertram Wooster by those who enjoy his close acquaintance that if there is one quality more than another that distinguishes hm, it is his ability to keep the lip stiff and supper and make the best of things. Though crushed to earth, as the expression is, he rises again - not absolutely in mid-season form, perhaps, but perkier than you would expect and with an eye alert for silver linings." (Chapter V)
"Well, go on."
"Where was I?"
"you were saying you made a bloomer in trying to be bright and genial."
"Ah, yes. That's right. I did. And this is how it came about. You see, the first thing a man has to ask himself, when he is told to be bright and genial, is 'How bright? How genial?' Shall he, that is to say, be just a medium ray of sunshine, or shall he go all out and shoot the works? I thought it over and designed to bar nothing and be absolutely rollicking. And that, I see now, is where I went wrong." (Chapter VII)
Wodehouse wrote this particular title when he was living in Germany. If you are unfamiliar with the person Wodehouse, he has a rather fascinating history. He was born in England and all of his books have a very British feel to them. However, most of his adult life was spent outside of England. Shortly before the second world war, Wodehouse moved to France to escape double taxation on his earnings from England the U.S. Of course, Germany occupied France and Wodehouse was interned by Germany for the remainder of the war. What was likely a poor choice on Wodehouse's part was that he prepared and delivered five radio addresses during his time in Germany which caused his countrymen to distrust his loyalties. Wodehouse rather severely underestimated the British mindset towards Germany. He never did seem to realize or understand why Britains were displeased with him for his radio broadcasts which apparently made him sound too jovial and friendly towards the Germans. As a result of this kerfuffle, Wodehouse never again returned to England. After the war, he and his wife moved to New York where he lived until his death in 1975.
Despite the fact that Britain was less than pleased with Wodehouse immediately following the war, he was eventually knighted. In an interview he gave later in his life he said he had no further ambitions after he had been knighted and had his likeness made into a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Would that we could all say that of ourselves, hmm?
Wodehouse tickles my funny bone. I've not read a biography (all info about him gleaned from various online sources) but I would be very curious to do so. I imagine it would be fascinating!
Again, if you haven't read anything by him yet - do! I'm glad to have had an opportunity to visit with his most famous characters again. It was reading time well spent!