aunts arent“My attention was drawn to the spots on my chest when I was in my bath, singing, if I remember rightly, the Toreador song from the opera Carmen.”

In many ways, I am your quintessential Englishman. I tut when someone queue jumps, I apologise for things that aren’t my fault, I talk about the weather a lot, and I’m increasingly frustrated with the rising cost of Freddos. On the other hand, I am lacking in certain areas of Englishness. I don’t drink tea, I’ve still never had a Nando’s, and until this week I’d never read any P. G. Wodehouse. At least one of those things has now changed.

Pip, pip!

I’d selected Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen to begin my quest into the world of Jeeves and Wooster because it had an amusing title, only to find a little later that this was the final book in the series. Not knowing if that would make any difference (I can surmise now that it doesn’t seem to), I forged ahead anyway and entered the world of Wodehouse, a world that everyone claims to be one of the most English and most hilarious of any ever devised.

In it, Bertie Wooster discovers some spots on his chest and, concerned, consults a doctor to ask his advice. The doctor says that the spots are of no concern, but Bertie could really do with a break in the countryside. Thinking it might not be such a bad idea, Bertie calls on his Aunt Dahlia, who is staying with friends in Somerset but arranges a cottage for him to come and stay, with Jeeves in tow, of course. However, far from it being an idyllic situation, Bertie finds that the village is also playing host to Vanessa Cook, a woman he once proposed to after five minutes, Orlo Porter, an old schoolfriend in love with the aforementioned Vanessa, and a batty old explorer called Major Plank who seems to be confusing Bertie for someone who once tried to con him out of money.

Add to this a temperamental racehorse, a cat with a habit of only turning up at the worst possible moments, and an aunt who seems to be stripping herself of her moral code as she gets older, and Bertie is in for a mad weekend. Thankfully, Jeeves can handle everything, as usual.

It turned out, after reading this, that people weren’t wrong – Wodehouse is funny. Bertie Wooster is a brilliant creation, speaking openly and chattily to the reader and confusing himself by often being unsure as to whether he’s using big words correctly. He also has a habit of assuming any fancy quote comes from Shakespeare, although is usually in the wrong. He’s a fool, certainly, but he’s a kind-hearted fool who wants the best for those around him, and remains chipper despite difficult circumstances. Jeeves, in turn, is indeed a masterful creation. He’s the perfect valet who never seems to judge his master, rarely showing any emotion more than raising his eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

Although I’m certainly just repeating what others have said for decades (there are definitely flaws to being so late to the party on some topics), Wodehouse is a superb writer and humorist, capturing in this short story so many facets of 1930s England and what the toffs were like. I particularly enjoyed the names he fashions for people and relishes in repeating, such as E. Jimpson Murgatroyd, Gussie Fink-Nottle and Stiffy Byng.

Now that I’ve finally arrived at the doorstep of Wodehouse, I will be knocking repeatedly. What ho, an absolute corker of a novel and definitely worth raising a glass to. Top hole!

For an English experience with a supernatural twist, try my debut novel The Atomic Blood-stained Bus, available now on Amazon, iTunes and SmashWords.

Advertisements