"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells (Sebastian Faulks)

Before we go any further, I just want to let you all know that I have written a review for this book and posted it on Goodreads.  I'm not going to post it here, because I feel like there are some spoilers included and I don't want to give away anything.  If you DID read the book already, or really just don't mind spoilers, then here's the link.  By all means, go ahead and read a bit.  Tell me what you think.

I've been reading PG Wodehouse since I was in junior high, and my dear friend Sarah first told me about this awesome author she picked up.  And at the time, I wasn't overly excited about old Plum.  I didn't actually start reading his works seriously until, while working on a project about Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, I discovered that there was a musical about a bumbling aristocrat and his butler Jeeves.  I loved the musical, and that got me to check out the books.

That was as a freshman in high school.  I was, what, 14?  15?  Now, nearly ten years later, I have to admit that I haven't picked up a Wodehouse book since early this past summer.  Scratch that.  It's probably been longer.  And that's a real shame.  However, the appearance of The Code of the Woosters under my Christmas tree this year has sparked a desire to read the books again.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is not a Wodehouse novel, PG or otherwise.  It is, however, a tribute novel written by Sebastian Faulks in honor of one of the greatest humor writers of our time.  That being said, I had some general concerns before picking it up.  I mean, I've read tribute novels and adaptations for other characters, such as Sherlock Holmes, but for me, Wodehouse has always been something sort of sacred.  And I was afraid that this wouldn't live up to my expectations.

On its own, it was a fun story.  Bertie Wooster met a girl, Georgiana, while vacationing in France and fell in love.  They treated each other as brother and sister, though, and when they both returned to England, they promised to keep in touch. Well, circumstances bring them back together, and Bertie learns that his new-found love is engaged to someone else (but out of a sense of duty, not love).  Meanwhile, Bertie's childhood friend "Woody" Beeching is having some difficulties of his own.  He's engaged to Georgiana's cousin, Amelia, and unless Georgiana marries a rich man who is able to keep the family patriarch from selling the estate, Amelia will have to marry someone else, since Woody does not have the funds.  Torn between a sense of loyalty to his boyhood chum and the affairs of his own heart, Bertie has to step in and play match-maker in order to make things right for everyone.  To make matters worse, a spot of confusion and a few poorly-worded utterances by Woody has convinced his future father-in-law that Jeeves is actually an aristocrat, Lord Etringham, and Bertie is his valet, Wilberforce.  Only crazy confusion can ensue.  And what follows is a genuinely amusing book.

There were some issues, of course.  But, it wasn't that bad.  My main issue, really, was that while this is advertised as a Bertie and Jeeves book, it doesn't have the same feel.  Yes, the characters have the same names, and their personalities are pretty much the same, but there is something that just felt off.  And honestly, it wasn't until I started writing this paragraph that I figured out what it was.  The focus was not so much on how splendid Jeeves is at getting Bertie out of the messes he gets himself into, or even about how perfect this Wooster plan is before it all goes up in smoke.  It was more of a introspective look at things.  This B. Wooster sounds more mature, if that makes sense.  No squabbling, no childish rants and frustrations.  He seems more mature, more humbled, and more reserved.  Perhaps that's what happens to an aristocrat when he has to act as undercover butler for the woman he loves and her fiancee.  I don't really know.  But, it was a different sort of book than what I have grown accustomed to with Wodehouse.  Sure, it was still funny, but while I would shelve Code of the Woosters, Thank You, Jeeves, and Aunts aren't Gentlemen in the humor section of the Emmy Hart library, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells would fit better in general fiction.  It reads more like a drama.

Would I recommend it?  Yes.  Would I read it again?  Also, yes.  And would I buy a copy for my personal collection?  I only hesitate here for a moment.  Yes, I think I would.  The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed it.  However, I have to say, I don't think this is one of those books which you can tackle expecting it to read like Wodehouse.  If you do, you're going to be disappointed.  I would read it like any other book, but don't expect too much of Plum's flair.  I think if you approach the text with different expectations, you're going to enjoy it a lot more.

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