on 26 February 2013
I can see why people are rating this book poorly, somehow, Bertie not being there does make it feel tad different from the other books in the Bertie-Jeeves series, but the plot and story itself are quite flawless and damn entertaining, witty, clever and the climax is unbelievably wellconcieved, I have to say. Read it with an open mind and you are sure to enjoy it too.
The only book (that I can think of) where Jeeves appears without his hapless employer Bertie Wooster, Ring for Jeeves, is a typical Wodehousian farce with mistaken identities, the struggles for true love to win through, and through it all the unflappable Jeeves weaving his way to solve all the problems.
Bill, Lord Rowcester, is working undercover (and under a garish moustache and sports jacket) as a bookie, with Jeeves' invaluable assistance, in order to keep his stately home afloat (and not at the bottom of the local river, as his brother in law would have it). But in keeping this from his fiancee, he finds himself in a spot of bother when a punter's bet comes off, and he has no way to pay out. Captain Biggar's descent on Rowcester Abbey at the same time as Mrs Spottsworth, a wealthy American to whom Bill is hoping to sell his pile of bricks and mortar, leads to a tale of great Wodehouse humour.
This book is somewhat unusual for Wodehouse in that it references very clearly a specific time - most of Wodehouse's books seem to be set in an undetermined time (although it always seems to be the 1920s/1930s), but this very clearly notes the First and Second World Wars, and part of the premise of the book is that it is a time of Socialist government in Britain (which explains Bertie Wooster's absence, off at a camp learning how to *shudder* darn his own socks).
This is a great story, typically witty, funny and peppered with funny literary allusions (from Jeeves). Captain Biggar is a great invention. Rory's allusion to the game of his childhood game of the Bigger Family, and the running jokes ("Which is bigger, Captain Biggar or Mirs Biggar? Mrs Biggar, because she became Biggar") still make me laugh, even though I've read the book quite a few times over the years. Great stuff - totally recommended.
on 8 June 2014
This is a post world war 2 novel, in which Jeeves - minus Bertie Wooster, who is on a self-sufficiency course to enable him to get to grips with a more democratic world - pairs up with an impoverished young aristocrat in the hope of restoring the family's fortunes. In some respects the plot feels a bit contrived - in a rather laboured way: most of PG's plots were a bit contrived, after all - but it contains some fine characterization, and I particularly enjoyed the big-game hunter who posed with his kill, only to discover that the lion in question had differing views on being dead to the chap who thought he'd shot him....
It's an interestingly amoral book, too - the stratagems employed to restore the family bank balance are distinctly below the belt: whether this reflects the impinging cruelties of the real world or is in tune with Wodehouse's general view of human affairs throughout his work is a question which kept occurring to me, and slightly marred my enjoyment of the pure humour. It's the first time so far as I know that Wodehouse really stepped out of the gilded fantasy life he'd described so brilliantly and took a sideways look at economic realities (although there was always Roderick Spode, and his Blackshorts). Maybe this slightly weakens its stature alongside the out and out comic romps - maybe it doesn't! It's certainly worth getting your hands on the book to find out for yourself.
on 20 July 2015
I bought this book wishing to add to my collection of P.G. Wodehouse titles. I love the Jeeves and Wooster books, but this title is different in that there is no sign whatsoever of old Bertie! I didn't realise this until I read the blurb, but decided to commence my reading with an open mind.
Bertie Wooster has been shipped off to a 'school for aristocrats' to learn how to cope on his own should there be a social revolution. Jeeves has therefore been temporarily loaned to Bertie's acquaintance Bill Belfry, the rather fiscally-challenged Earl of Rowcester.
The book begins with Bill and Jeeves involved in a money-making scheme which sees them posing as an outlandishly dressed/disguised bookie and his clerk. They encounter Captain Biggar, a classic Wodehouse blustery-type who doesn't take too kindly to being done out of his winnings, and so gives chase to Bill and Jeeves across the English countryside. And so the tale begins. There are mishaps, misunderstandings, the calling off of an engagement....all the usual stuff associated with a good Jeeves and Wooster yarn (minus Aunts). The absence of Wooster is noticeable, although the character of Bill Belfry seems so similar you could be forgiven for forgetting halfway through that it isn't Wooster. But all in all, I enjoyed reading it, and Wodehouse's turn of phrase is delightful.
"Ring for Jeeves" was first published in 1953 in the UK, though was first published in the US under the name "The Return of Jeeves". However, unusually for a Jeeves book, Bertie Wooster is absent. (The Second World War has been and gone, and the effects haven't been good for the aristocracy. The peasants are revolting, and many of the upper classes have actually had to start working for a living. Bertie's back at school, being taught how to fend for himself - just in case the proletariat become even more troublesome. Luckily, it's just a precaution, as his finances remain quite sound. In the meantime. Jeeves is on temporary assignment as the butler of Rowcester Abbey).
However, it's a while before either Jeeves or his new employer - Bill Belfry, the ninth Earl of Rowcester - make an appearance. Instead, the book opens at the Goose and Gherkin, where Rosalinda "Rosie" Spottsworth is taking a break from her journey to the Abbey. Having out-lasted two exceptionally rich husbands, she's now exceptionally rich herself...and Bill's sister, Monica, has nearly convinced her to buy the stately home. (The pair had met in New York, though Bill hasn't quite been informed yet. However, he isn't remotely upset with the news - given that he is a member of the "new" aristocracy, he is very strapped for cash).
Quite by chance, Rosie is soon joined by an old friend - Captain Biggar, the legendary big-game hunter. (Mr Spottsworth had been on a hunting expedition with the Captain when Rosie went from being Mrs Spottsworth to the Widow Spottsworth). Although more used to chasing down lions and rhinos, the Captain is again on the hunt - having backed an unlikely double at Epsom, he was due to collect about £3000 from his bookie. Unfortunately, the bookie in question - Honest Patch Perkins - and his clerk ran off without paying up. All the same, Biggar he knows he's on the right track - although his car has broken down, he's tailed them this far...and it's only a matter of time before he picks up the scent again. Unfortunately, Honest Patch Perkins is really a thinly-disguised (and totally broke) Bill...while his clerk was none other than Jeeves.
Naturally, there are also major problems for the characters' romances. Biggar and the Widow Spottsworth have their sights set on one another, but the Great Hunter is being badly hampered by his code of honour. (He won't feel worthy of the Rosie until he has a fortune of his own...which makes him even more determined to get his hands on his winnings). In a typically Wodehousian twist, things are further complicated by Rosie's previous form with Bill - the pair had, briefly, taken moonlit strolls along the seafront in Cannes. (She was between husbands at the time). Poor Bill has to lay it on thick with Rosie, in an attempt to smooth the sale of the Abbey...which causes his fiancée, Jill, no end of anguish and sparks waves of jealousy and contempt from Biggar. Jeeves' difficulties are compounded by Monica's husband, Rory Carmoyle - the sort of character you can rely on to say the worst possible thing, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, to the worst possible person.
A little strange, for a Jeeves book - I'm used to Bertie telling the story, getting everything wrong and then being used as the book's fall guy. Jeeves plays a smaller role than normal too, though - luckily - his superior mental powers remain impressive. Still, an enjoyable and funny book overall...you can always rely on Plum.