PG Wodehouse's books are quite probably the finest examples of English humour ever to have been written, and Uncle Fred in the Springtime is quite possibly his finest work. The title character is a delightfully eccentric old coot, who takes advantage of his formidable wife's occasional jaunts to the South of France to escape the confines of his country seat and visit his eternally melancholy (and somewhat romantically susceptible) nephew, Pongo Twistleton. The juxtaposition of Uncle Fred's bombastic self-confidence and Pongo's pessimistic outlook, combined with a strong sense of self-preservation, produces a comedic duo to rival even the mighty Jeeves & Wooster. The plot is far too complicated to attempt to summarise here, suffice to say that the pair visit that Earthly paradise known as Blandings Castle. Cue Lord Emsworth, Connie, the Efficient Baxter, Beach, and a rare appearance by Lord Emsworth's eldest son, Lord Bosham, who surpasses all expectations by proving to be a bigger chump than his father and younger brother combined. To sum up, this book is superb. Buy it.
The Wodehouse world is a world free of suffering - a kind of return to the garden of eden. Perhaps this is why, dying that I am, I have found the books so invigorating - the books are a great tonic - a true pain killer. Anyway, in this Blandings novel, impersonation is very important with Lord Ickenham coming to Blandings at Emswoth's request but hacing to pretend to be the London Brain surgeon Sir Roderick Glossop in order to keep Lady Constance off the trail. To give a taster, there is a scene where Ickenham heads off Glossop on the train with a view to deflecting Glossop from coming to Blandings but also he wants to get some information on how Glossop goes about his work:
"I wish I had a brain like yours" said Lord Ickenham, "What an amazing thing. I suppose you could walk down a line of people, giving each of them a quick glance, and separate the sheep from the goats line shelling pees..."loony... not loony...this one wants watching.. this ones all right...keep an eye on this chap. Dont let him get near the bread knife..."
Anyway, the novel is hilarious harmless fun. Thanks Fr Schall for getting me back into Wodehouse
If not the best then, at worst, `Uncle Fred in the Springtime' is one of the best Wodehouse novels. It is a sort of a `Best of Wodehouse' with Pongo Twistleton and his Uncle Fred, whom we met previously in `Young Men in Spats', flitting by Blandings Castle under an assumed name, as is traditional to first time visitors. The name in question belongs to Roderick Glossop, renowned psychiatrist, whom has had to pronounce Bertie Wooster certifiable on more than one occasion.
Also present at Blandings are Valerie Twistleton whom has become estranged from her fiancée, Horace Pendlebury-Davenport, whose Uncle, the Duke of Dunstable is determined to remove Lord Emsworth's beloved pig with the help of the efficient Baxter, Emsworth's discharged secretary. Polly Pott is also posing as a secretary to secure the funds she requires to marry her estranged fiancée, Ricky Gilpin, a further nephew of Dunstable.
Uncle Fred believes that it is his mission to spread sweetness and light throughout the world but to unite Valerie and Horace, Polly and Ricky whist separating Dunstable and the Empress and Baxter and Emsworth without driving Pongo to desertion will take all of his and Wodehouse's guile. The sweetness and light is infectious not just through Blandings Castle but is easily caught by the reader. The symptoms are so great only a fool would seek a cure.
The good lady wife takes a dim view of Wodehousian characters whom she deems harbour amoral tendencies. Two pre-eminent targets for her censure are Jeeves (cruel and manipulative) and Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham (agent of chaos). True, Uncle Fred seems to strew darkness and despond as thickly and evenly as he does sweetness and light, but it seems harsh to cavil when, as is the case with this novel, PGW is firing on all cylinders. Here we are again in the eternal sunshine of the spotless Blandings Castle, where young hearts are sundered, penniless young wastrels need to be forcibly financed, impostors are imposting around every corner, and the Empress is pignapped (when is she ever not?). More importantly, the efficient Baxter gets hit in the face with a well-aimed raw egg launched by a barmy duke, and we are treated to a rare personal appearance by the Earl of Emsworth's older son, Lord Bosham, who achieves a pitch of intellectual negligibility which even the Drones Club's finest could barely hope to emulate. What-ho, what-ho, what-ho! Yoicks! One of the best.
This is one of the best audio books that I have ever enjoyed. I must have listened to mine at least 300 times. Well, there's a reason why Martin Jarvis reads absolutely everything and it's because he's absolutely fabulous at it. Nearly every evening I drift back to Blandings, where Pongo Twistleton goggles at the amazing powers of Uncle Fred who confounds mistaken fiances and fierce sisters as if they were mere gnats on a hot summery day. And not forgetting that magnificent pig, the Empress of Blandings, who also plays a major role...... The first time I listened to this tape I was slightly disappointed because I did not know the characters as well as in the Jeeves and Wooster tales. But now I can happily say that this is one of Wodehouse's best, and highly recommended.
This book is more about the exploits of the Earl of Ickenham (Uncle Fred) and his nephew Pongo Twistleton and Lord Emsworths elder son, Bosham. Then the Duke of Dunstable arrives demanding the garden suite. Connie daren't refuse for fear of him laying waste to the Castle with a poker! He is a bit of a nasty old codger and a bully and keeps trying to take Lord Emsworth's pig The Empress away. He is convinced that he is living in a mad house so suggests to Connie that they get a Psychiatrist down to Blandings to give The Earl the once over. This is where things do really start to turn into loony tunes.
I would love (as another reviewer pointed out) an Uncle like the Earl. He is an older man but still full of high jinx and not above pulling a confidence trick just to prove that he could do it.
There is also a P.I. by the name of Mustard (commonly called Mustard Potts) his daughter Polly and the Duke's nephew Horace. Polly is in love with a chap called Ricky Gilpin (another of the Dukes nephews). She was at one time engaged to Horace. What they need is £250 to buy a Onion Soup shop and Pongo needs £250 to pay off his creditors.
Uncle Fred sets in motion a train of events which made me laugh out loud and I particularly liked reading how the Eminent Baxter got lamped with an egg.