A REVIEW OF 'EGGS, BEANS & CRUMPETS' BY P.G. WODEHOUSE
'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' is a compendium of nine short stories from that master of mirth, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. 4 tales revolve around Bingo Little and his attempts to disguise his gambling antics from his loving wife, three are devoted to Ukridge and his disastrous money-borrowing/money-making schemes, with the remaining two tales taking the form of a Mr Mulliner yarn and the romantic story of Freddie Fitch-Fitch at Droitwich Spa.
Each is a nugget of comedy gold in its own right, and the collection is very much an excuse to lump nine stories together into a novel-length package. The 'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' title relates to the names of the punters who patronise the legendary Drones Club for gentlemen of a certain income, not matched by their intellect. It is the fact that all of the stories' main protagonists might be members of the same fraternity which forms a gossamer-thin layer of glue binding the stories together. It is worth noting that, although 'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' was published as a collection in 1940, most of the stories were first written and printed in various journals many years earlier. A similar compendium, 'Young Men In Spats' was published in 1936.
Each tale whirls past, offering typically amusing word play, characterisation and razor-sharp plotting. It is interesting how much dishonesty can be found in 'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets'. Certainly Bingo Little would be considered to having a gambling addiction today, and his antics might be labelled as criminal if taken out of context! And then there is Ukridge, whose morality does not stand up to any scrutiny. It is most amusing to hear him lament about the cunning or outrage of others when he has been either outdone of exposed in his own underhand dealings. There are those who lament the inclusion of Ukridge in Wodehouse's collection of principle characters. I have even seen him described as being "seedy". However, so inept are his shenanigans and so deserved are his failures, that I can't help admiring the sheer cheek of the man, not to mention his eternal optimism.
However, the very best tale from the nine must be 'Romance At Droitwich Spa', which offers a sublime tale of farce, tragedy and the best use of a villainous conjuror (enter stage left, exit stage right) in the history of literature. I would almost recommend it to any Wodehouse novices as their first entry into his timelessly hilarious world.
In short, 'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' is tremendous fun and is the perfect holiday read, whatever the weather. Those with an orderly mind might argue that the two volumes of short stories ('Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' and 'Young Men In Spats') might have worked better with the tales more logically grouped together. This minor editorial quibble aside, it is truly remarkable how consistently excellent P.G. Wodehouse's work remained through his prolific career. Much like Freddie Fitch-Fitch's arch nemesis, he continued to pull rabbits from the hat time after time, and here we have nine bunnies worthy of any magic show.
Barty's Score: 9/10