Monday, October 6, 2014

Review of The Small Bachelor by P.G. Wodehouse

In the past, I have attempted reading Wodehouse novels and just been a bit bored by the antics of Jeeves and co. I picked up The Small Bachelor recently because I felt like something light, thinking I would give Wodehouse another go. I am so glad I did. This novel is pure delight. I think maybe my problem with Wodehouse is limited to the Jeeves novels; there are literally dozens of others.

The Small Bachelor is set in New York during prohibition and centers around a rooftop apartment in the cities bohemian quarter and its occupants' forays in love.  With names like George Finch, a quiet little man with a private income attempting life as a painter,  and the resplendent J. Hamilton Beamish, expert on all things and publisher of instructive pamphlets, I knew from the first pages that this was going to be brilliant. And it really is!

Diminutive George is speechless with admiration for young Molly Waddington, who after more or less stalking her for a time, finds himself spontaneously invited to dinner by Molly's father, after he finds George skulking outside their house one evening.  Molly's stepmother, the second Mrs Waddington is furious with this intrusion to her grand dinner with New York's industrialist elite, but Mr Waddington is delighted by the newcomer, and quite a stand-off ensues.

Later, George turns to his most esteemed friend and neighbour, Hamilton Beamish for advice in this courting game. Hamilton Beamish and the Waddingtons are perhaps the most beautifully drawn characters you could hope to read on a page.

This book left me constantly smiling and even laughing as I read. Wodehouse is so clever with his language and the plot moves along swiftly. There are some magical farcical moments and unexpected turns. One of the joys I think with this novel is just how many characters Wodehouse managers to cram into the mayhem. I know I keep using the word, but the book is just thoroughly delightful. Hilarity on the page is very hard to do isn't it? There are so few genuinely funny novels. For me this will be the benchmark. I look forward to reading some of the other stand alone Wodehouse novels, and may even have to revisit Jeeves.

Have you a favourite Wodehouse novel?

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