First Published: 1938
Pages: 286 (Paperback)
Series: Jeeves and Wooster #6
When Bertie Wooster goes to Totleigh Towers to pour oil on the troubled waters of a lovers’ breach between Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, he isn’t expecting to see his Aunt Dahlia there – nor to be instructed by her to steal some silver. But purloining the antique cow creamer from under the baleful nose of Sir Watkyn Bassett is the least of Bertie’s tasks. He has to restore true love to both Madeline and Gussie and to the Revd Stinker Pinker and Stiffy Byng – and confound the insane ambitions of would-be Dictator Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts. It’s a situation only Jeeves can unravel…
It’s summer again! And summer means lying out on the lawn with a cold drink and a Jeeves and Wooster. The UK’s been having somewhat of a heatwave recently so actually the ‘lawn’ was more like ‘straw’ and I missed the company of my beautiful dogdog who passed away last month, but otherwise it’s as close to perfect Jeeves and Wooster conditions as you can get and I was able to spend a very enjoyable day snorting to myself over Bertie’s misadventures.
There is, of course, nothing significantly different in The Code of the Woosters from any of the previous Jeeves books – Bertie finds himself in an awkward situation, it escalates and escalates and escalates, and then Jeeves solves it – but that is all I want from a Jeeves and Wooster. I know exactly what I’m getting from these books and that’s a familiar but very very funny comedy of errors, wonderful use of the English language, and absolutely masterful storytelling.
In this story Bertie is invited to Totleigh Towers to help heal the rift between Gussie Fink-Nottle and his fiancée after a misunderstanding over him removing a fly from her cousin’s eye. He must also steal a silver cow creamer from his host, Sir Bassett, a magistrate who once fined him five pounds for stealing a policemen’s helmet, and find a way of reconciling Sir Bassett to the idea of his niece, Steffy, marrying the local curate. All the while escaping the clutches of Bassett’s other houseguest, Roderick Spode, a man who ‘Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment’. Of course, it’s never quite that simple and Bertie finds himself getting tangled in an ever more messy web of miscommunications and misunderstandings. It’s all ridiculous, brilliant, stuff.
And Bertie is probably my favourite first-person narrator ever. Its his character, more than the situational comedy, that really makes these books great. He narrates how he speaks and he speaks like a 1930s not very bright member of the idle rich, peppering his language with deliciously dated terms and slang slang ‘golly’ ‘bally’ ‘rot’, and references to half remembered (and normally misunderstood) quotations, stories or songs. ‘...I mean to say. I mean, imagine how some unfortunate Master Criminal would feel, on coming down to do a murder at the old grange, if he found that not only was Sherlock Holmes putting in the weekend there, but Hercule Poirot as well.‘ It’s almost impossible not to hear his voice as you read. And it’s all so understated and played so straight (this is where most TV adaptations of Wodehouse get it so dreadfully, dreadfully, wrong – gurning and lisping at the camera) that it’s impossible not to love him.
So, five stars for this one. Yes, it’s simply more of the same but when the same is as brilliant as P.G. Wodehouse at his best, that doesn’t really matter. It’s precisely what I’m looking for on a glorious sunny day. I doubt I’d recommend reading the whole series back to back (that really would get repetitive!) but when the sun’s shining and I’m in the right mood they’re absolutely glorious.