on 18 May 2001
it seems odd to be reviewing this book a whole 35 years after it was published, but here goes: if you are fond of wodehouse, then read it, and if you've not tried him, what took you so long?!
as ever, this book is full of elegant wit and gentle humour, as it follows yet more adventures in the life of lord emsworth, his beloved pig, and his nearest & dearest.
of course, the main plot line is much the same as ever for blandings books, but its the subtleties and delivery that are pure brilliance. read and enjoy!
on 25 May 2012
We're back at Blandings and, as usual, things aren't going well for woolly-headed peer Lord Emsworth. He has Wellbeloved back as pig-man, but he also has a domineering secretary, Lavender Briggs, who needs five-hundred pounds to set up her own secretarial bureau, and isn't above arranging the kidnapping of Lord Emsworth's prize pig, Empress of Blandings, to get it. He also has to cope with the domineering Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, who has once again invited himself to Blandings, and who is still under the impression that his pig-obsessed host is dotty, and is still determined to get said pig away from him, especially now that he has a buyer willing to pay good money for it. Meanwhile, Myra Schoonmaker, daughter of a rich American businessman, has been removed to Blandings by Lord Emsworth's formidable sister, Lady Constance, to keep her away from the man she loves, penniless curate Cuthbert "Bill" Bailey. Lady Constance hopes Myra will fall in love with Dunstable's nephew Archie. As if all this weren't enough, Lord Emsworth has to cope with the Church Lads' Brigade, who are camped en mass on the Castle grounds. Lucky, then, that, while on an enforced visit to London for the opening of Parliament, Lord Emsworth should encounter his fellow Earl, the irrepressible Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham, who agrees to travel back to Blandings with Lord Emsworth to help sort out the tangle and spread sweetness and light the way only he can.
This is the eighth Blandings novel, and the last of four to feature that most delightful of Wodehouse creations, the Earl of Ickenham, better known as Uncle Fred. Although Wodehouse was eighty-one when he wrote this novel, there is no sign of his powers failing. This is a charming light novel which runs along beautifully in a well-worn groove, full of those verbal felicities for which Wodehouse is so loved. Few writers have been better than Wodehouse at plotting, and here as so often he draws a tangled skein of plots and weaves everything together with the firm hand of a master. Everything is for the best in the best of all worlds, the world of Blandings, a paradise from which there has been no fall. The only sad note is that this is the last time we will encounter Uncle Fred, but we can take heart, as he would himself, that in this final appearance he spreads much sweetness and light in his own inimitable fashion.
on 3 June 2013
I would say this is one of the best Blandings castle books, but they are ALL 'one of the best'! A brilliantly-woven plot, the funniest writer of the 20th century, a plot to steal the Empress involving double and treble-dealings between the Duke of Dunstable, Lord Emsworth's secretary and her former employer Lord Tilbury, and much much more, all played out in the golden Shropshire sunlight of a world that no longer exists - if it ever did. Pure escapism of the very best kind, by a writer who knew how to weave plots and resolve them, all with the wonderful, gentle humour that runs through all the Blandings books. Everyone should read the Blandings books, all of them, and then re-read them over and again, because they are of the few that you can enjoy time and again, no matter how often you have read them. Value for money? And then some!
on 22 March 2012
This was a pleasant read, after a recent heavy diet of Dickens, full of good writing, wit and wry humour. The story line is really irrelevant, being in the traditional Blandings format, but I found the book relaxing and undemanding.
on 18 February 2015
All the Wodehouse books make me laugh out loud, and help when life is anything but funny. I'll be sorry when I've read all of them. Laughing Gas is unlike the others, but so cleverly written, and fun for a change. And all can be reread, which is a bonus.
on 29 June 2013
This is the first ever Wodehouse book I've read and it blew me away. Very quick reading - it took me a mere 7 hours to read through the entire book (from 1pm - 8pm) and every page is perfection in language, wit and humour!!! I'm still in a daze from Wodehouse's genius! I loved all of the characters - from the "exuberant" problem-solving Uncle Fred to his guardian angel to the Duke of Dunstable's moustache - utterly hilarious!! Wodehouse is by far a master of modern writing - not just comic writing. And I strongly suspect that modern comedians borrow from his work and style in one way or another. I thoroughly recommend Service with a Smile! You will be smiling the whole way through!!
on 23 May 2008
`Service with a Smile' marks Uncle Fred's third visit to Blandings in his quest to spread sweetness and light by bringing to a suitable conclusion Bill Bailey's wooing of Myra Schoonmaker. Myra Schoonmaker was a Blandings no show from `Heavy Weather' when she was impersonated by Sue Brown under the influence of Galahad in order to marry Ronnie Fish. Here Myra appears under her own colours whilst Bill assumes the name of Brazilian Cuthbert Meriwether. The marriage has been forbidden by Lady Constance who ends up becoming betroved to James Schoonmaker under instruction from Uncle Fred. A further engagement brought to fruition is that of Archie Gilpin and Millicent Rigby.
As Fred puts it `There is always apt to be trouble when you start spreading sweetness and light. You find there isn't enough to go around and someone has to be left out of the distribution. Very difficult to get a full hand' and so there is no happy ending for Blandings regulars Lord Tilbury, of the Mammoth Publishing company whom we met previously in `Bill the Conqueror', `Sam the Sudden' and `Heavy Weather', or the Duke of Dunstable whom appeared in `Uncle Fred in the Springtime'.
As with most Wodehouse, and particularly Blandings, the plot is of little consequence and we are generally delighted by the casts most eccentric characters on being given an airing and the show here is stolen by Uncle Fred and Lord Emsworth but especially George Threepwood, Emsworth's grandson, and his Hollywood gangster dialogue and his employ of said on Dunstable, now that he has graduated from shooting people with his air gun (`The Crime Wave at Blandings') to his camera.
on 18 May 2001
When you read this book, you will enjoy it, but at the same time you may experience a slight feeling of deja vu. The storyline runs along the lines of: the empress of blandings gets stolen, someone ends up engaged to two girls at once, several people are trying to borrow large sums of money from several other people, and someone's niece gets shipped off to Blandings to prevent her marrying an impecunious suitor - not necessarily in that order. Sound familiar? That's because most Wodehouse fans could name at least three books with a VERY similar plot without stopping to think. Despite this, it is a very funny and redable book. Highly recommended, but if it sells out, just read almost any other Wodehouse and you won't know the difference.
on 22 November 2011
In the classic review almost always quoted on the back covers of PGW books, Evelyn Waugh confidently stated "Mr Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale". However, having read my collection of Blandings novels again in date order, I can assure you that by the time this one came out (1961), it was getting just the teensiest bit musty. The plot is simpler, the writing is less inspiredly baroque and, although PGW always relied on a limited range of stock characters and we love him for it, here the young lovers Bill Lister and Penny Donaldson - sorry, I mean Bill Bailey and Myra Schoonmaker - are so sketchily drawn as to be ciphers. Minor characters (Beach the butler, George Cyril Wellbeloved the miscreant pig man, and Ricky - sorry, I mean Archie - Gilpin) are so underused they might as well not be there.
As I've observed elsewhere, Wodehouse is incapable of being bad, but all the same I'm glad this is the last of my Blandings collection. I'd hate the idea of reading, say, `A Pelican at Blandings' and feeling compelled to award a Wodehouse novel fewer than 3 stars in my review. It'd be like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
on 29 April 2013
I just love the Blandings novels. I feel as though I know the characters personally. I just love to escape to the Big House and meet them again and enjoy the garden on a sunny day.