Blandings Castle is an unexpected mix of short stories. After P.G. Wodehouse began to weave his novels about Clarence, Ninth Earl of Emsworth, and his improbable family and friends into a series of hilarious stories, he realized that he needed to fill in a gap. He warns that the first six stories in this collection constitute "the short snorts in between the solid orgies." Specifically, these stories tell us about happenings between Leave It to Psmith and Summer Lightning.
You find out more about why Clarence doesn't like to have his son, the Honorable Freddie around. You also learn about how the Empress of Blandings won her first Fat Pigs competition. The Custody of the Pumpkin shows Clarence as a plant-focused competitor before he became a pig-focused one. Mr. Wodehouse also lets us know how Freddie came to marry his wealthy wife and join the dog biscuit business in the States. Some of these stories have plots that could have been turned into novels, which makes the short stories all the better. The most delicious of the stories is a sweet tale of Clarence taking it upon himself to do the right thing in Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.
The seventh tale is a typical Wodehouse country hullabaloo as Bobbie Wickham manipulates all involved to her advantage in dispatching an unwelcome suitor . . . playing the role for herself the Jeeves and Gally usually play in resolving romantic mishaps. It's clever and ever so liberated.
In the last five stories, P.G. Wodehouse unleashes his dissatisfaction with the Hollywood studios into acid satires of moguls and their foibles. For those who know the Hollywood of those days, these tales are almost biographical. Like the Canterbury Tales, there's a delightful element of exaggeration that makes the humor ever so much more tangy. If you dislike phonies, incompetents and those who are out for only themselves, you'll love these stories. If you don't like biting satire, skip these stories. You'll like the earlier seven.
on 23 April 2010
Having read many of the jeeves stories 20 years ago and watched again recently the ITV Jeeves and Wooster starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, I thought it was time to get back to Wodehouse for some good cheer. But, I wanted to start on something different, so I decided to start with the first of the Blandings novels. As someone who struggles to get a night sleep because of pain, it was a sheer delight for me to have the tonic of reading this book peopled with its ecentric characthers and its zany plot. Lord Emsworth is the most striking characther here - he is completely potty, not realising he has stolen an american collector's egyptian scarab. The book is about the collector getting the scarab back and it really is hiarlous at times. I will say though that having just read "Leave it to Psmith" that, if anything, the series gets better with its more complex and convoluted characthers with impersonation being a key theme. Anyway enjoy to your heart's content!
on 24 February 2008
`Full Moon' is a Wodehouse novel set at his own Garden of Eden, Blandings Castle. We last entered Blandings with `Uncle Fred in the Springtime' and although Uncle Fred is not present his understudy The Honourable Galahad is in residence along with The Honourable Freddie whom is amiably if not ably assisting him in bringing to a happy conclusion the courtship of his cousins Prudence and Veronica to Bill `Blister' Lister and Tipton Plimsoll respectively.
As ever complications come in the way of Lord Emsworth's inability to grasp or remember anything which is further mixed up by Blisters appearance under not one but three assumed names. The difficulties mount until Wodehouse and Gally pull the hug out from under them with there usual deft touch.
As well as true love the winners here are the reader with priceless prose and dialogue such as an interview between Gally and Lady Hermione on the first arrival of Blister, `Is he wanted by the Police?', `No, he is not wanted by the Police.', `How I sympathize with the Police, I know just how they feel'.
on 29 March 2012
The plot of this glorious novel, the first in the Blandings saga, is as tangled as any in Wodehouse, and begins when Lord Emsworth absent-mindedly pockets a valuable Scarab from the collection of millionaire-businessman J. Preston Peters, whose daughter Aline is engaged to Lord Emsworth's slack-jawed younger son, the Hon. Freddy Threepwood, whilst also being courted by George Emerson, an up-and-coming young officer in the Hong Kong police. Not daring to risk upsetting the marriage plans by accusing Lord Emsworth of stealing the gem or asking for its return, Mr Peters engages an enterprising young man, Ashe Marson, impecunious author of the "Gridley Quayle Mysteries", to get it back for him while posing as his valet during a visit to Lord Emsworth's home, Blandings Castle in Shropshire. His daughter, Aline, takes on her old friend Joan Valentine, former chorus girl and former ladies' maid, as her maid with the same purpose. Complications ensue when the Hon. Freddy, whose cousin has recently been named in a breach of promise case, fears that Joan, to whom he sent letters and, worse, poetry, when he fell under her spell during her time in the chorus, might seek to embroil him in a similar ruinous case. To avoid this, he asks his odious and obese friend, R. Jones, to speak to Joan and endeavour to recover the incriminating letters. Once gathered at Lord Emsworth's idyllic country home, Blandings Castle in Shropshire, presided over by the imposing figure of Beech the Butler, they come under the penetrating gaze of his Lordship's officious and ever-suspicious secretary, the Efficient Baxter.
First published in 1915, Something Fresh was Wodehouse's first foray into Blandings territory. Where later stories in the series would centre on Lord Emsworth and his prize pig, Empress of Blandings, at this stage, Emsworth is little more than a background character, however well-drawn, for the story of how Ashe Marson and Joan Valentine come together in their attempts to recover Mr Peters's prize scarab. With both of these characters entering the scene in the capacity of servants, the primary focus is on the servants rather than the guests, and there is more focus on what goes on `below-stairs' than in any other Wodehouse novel. Most of Wodehouse's stories are love-stories at heart, and this is no different, with Ashe and Joan gradually realising how deeply they care for each other, and Aline Peters seriously questioning whether she really wants to spend the rest of her days with the chump Freddy, while she has an altogether more fitting suitor begging for her hand. Wodehouse was a master of plotting and, having got everyone together in what looks like a tangled mess, he takes great pleasure, and gives us great enjoyment, in untangling all the threads and making sure everyone ends with their just deserts. As usual, Wodehouse draws his characters so vividly they live on the page, from the handsome hero, Ashe, thoroughly sick of writing the bilge by which he earns his daily crust, to the maddeningly forgetful Lord Emsworth, a winner of a character on this, his first appearance, to the Efficient Baxter, always suspecting interlopers of being up to something. Although this is our first trip to Blandings, everything is in place for it to become one of the most idyllic settings in the whole of fiction. Wodehouse is at his sunny best in this, the best of all possible worlds.
on 29 December 2007
`Blandings Castle' or `Blandings Castle and Elsewhere' to give it its full title is a collection of short stories set, surprising enough, in Blandings Castle and elsewhere. It is really a book of two halves with the first half chronicling the Threepwood family of Blandings, the second half concerning Mr Mulliners tall tales and a brief interlude of a story about Bobbie Wickham, a thoroughly modern girl.
The Blandings short stories allow the Threepwoods and particularly Lord Emsworth to come out of the shadow of being in the supporting cast of Wodehouse's novels to take centre stage. These six stories highlight whilst a character actor can make a story in support he cannot necessarily carry it alone. The stories which feature Lord Emsworth in the lead are the poorer stories whilst the ones which follow the novel template of boy meets girl, Aunt Constance refuses match, Lord Emsworth brings things to a satisfactory conclusion for the sake of an quiet life, are where these characters really shine.
The Bobbie Wickham story is, in my opinion, the best story in this collection, as Bobbie manipulates all the men captivated by her vivid red hair to get the better of her mothers desire to marry her to the nearest novelist or poet.
The five Mr Mulliner stories are better than the majority to populate his solo ventures possibly due to them being themed around the Mulliners whom work in the Hollywood film industry. No doubt tempered by Wodehouse's own experiences of being a staff man at MGM where he famously said `I've never been paid so much; for doing so little'. His stories of yes men and nodders (junior yes men whom agree with their superiors without recourse to chanting yes) are fantastic. The action in `Monkey Business' is worth the price of admission on its own.
Another great collection in the Wodehouse cannon and if I had a critism it is that it should be reverted to its original title to prevent it being used as an introduction to the Blandings stories. `Summer Lightening; A Blandings story' is the best introduction to Blandings Castle and I imagine this book has put off more weary travellers to the castle grounds than it has attracted.
on 11 September 2011
In the first book in P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle saga, the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, the youngest son of the incredibly vague Earl of Emsworth has just got himself engaged to a very nice American girl, Aline Peters. Of course, this means that Aline and her rather overbearing father have to come to Blandings Castle to meet the family and all might have gone well if Lord Emsworth hadn't absentmindedly walked off with Mr Peters' priceless Egyptian scarab.
Mr Peters daren't kick up a fuss about this in case Lord Emsworth uses this as an excuse to call the engagement off and so he hires Ashe Marson to steal the scarab back and takes them to the castle in the guise of his valet. Naturally, Ashe isn't the only imposter at the castle trying to steal the scarab and the resulting confusion gives a funny and witty story with the inevitable happy ending that makes Wodehouse one of my 'go to' comfort authors.
Although I think the Jeeves and Wooster books are very fine, Blandings Castle is my real home. Just writing the review makes me want to go and read another one.
on 22 April 2014
This is an excellent novel, Wodehousian in every way and thoroughly enjoyable. Souffle-light, witty to the nth degree and an absolute pleasure.
Well worth the full five stars, even if, and I agree about this, we are not here in the masterpiece league of the Jeeves and Wooster series.
Also, if you're coming to this from the latest BBC 'Blandings' series, beware: Lady Ann makes no appearance; the Empress is not, I think, even mentioned; Lord Emsworth takes only a minor role. All these delights await in future novels in the series ...
This is another wonderful Blandings Castle novel from the master of understated comedy, P G Wodehouse. In this story, Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth's second son, is home from the USA for an extended stay (which doesn't thrill his father any) and brings a wealthy friend, Tipton Plimsoll, to stay at Blandings. This is good news for his aunt, Lady Hermione Wedge, who would like nothing better than to see her "nice but dim" daughter Veronica wedded to a suitably wealthy chap who could keep her in the style to which she'd like to become accustomed.
Add to this the romantic entanglements of Galahad Threepwood's godson (one of many) Bill Lister (or Blister to his friends) and Prudence Garland, yet another of Lord Emsworth's nieces, and you have a suitably complicated and good-hearted wonderfully comic tale of a time that may never have existed, but I'd like to think it did.
As always with PGW, totally highly recommended.