I should declare an interest. No - I don't know Sebastian Faulks. No - we don't share a publisher - and no - he's never reviewed any of my books. My interest is simple. I'm a P.G.Wodehouse fan. Specifically I'm huge devotee of the Jeeves books. I was therefore solidly in the folded-arms/outraged-that-anyone-should-try-to-imitate-the-master camp, and I bought this book at an airport bookstall simply to confirm my fears that the publishing world had taken leave of its senses. No one, I believed, could ever hope to do anything more than an embarrassing pastiche of Wodehouse's unique style. No one could hope to capture the gentle buffoonery of Bertram Wooster's narrative voice. No one in the Twenty First Century could re-create the gentle country-house farce, could mix allusions from Hymns A&M with Shakespeare and Spinoza, or could nail the affectionate repartee between Jeeves and Wooster. I was wrong. It's a coincidence that the last book I reviewed was the new Asterix volume - the first officially sanctioned story by a new writer and illustrator. I gave that a warmish welcome. But frankly, they had a much easier task than Faulks. B Wooster is a much more slippery fish to land than Asterix and Obelix. The almost unbelievable news is that Faulks carries it off with extraordinary aplomb. I was waiting for the lines that would jar or the situation that would affront - and they never came. Within pages you're forced to forget that this isn't Wodehouse, and it isn't an undiscovered volume that you discovered in a dusty second hand book shop. If anything - and it almost pains me to say this - Faulks has improved on the master. I know. I know. But removed from the contemporary context Faulks is able to muse on current events - the General Strike, and the Great War - he is able to speculate on Darwinism. And ... (now here is the real revelation) he is able to endow Bertie with a richer, more rounded personality than P.G. ever allowed him. Is that taking a liberty? I don't think so. Faulks delivers a Jeeves book with a modern bent. He creates a character arc that is notably absent in the originals. The only epiphany that would normally come to Bertie would be the realisation that his spats really weren't de rigeur. In this book, Bertie has a true journey of self discovery. It is remarkable that Faulks delivers this without any sense of betrayal of P.G.'s creation. The ending - which I don't imagine Wodehouse could ever have contemplated (and which I'm surprised the Wodehouse estate agreed to) - is the only significant departure from the proven template - but it is wholly forgivable for being the most satisfying ending of any Jeeves and Wooster book. Please Mr Faulks, start work on the sequel. It is time - and I never believed I could ever think this - to set J&W off on a whole new chapter in their lives.
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