The Code of the Woosters, by P. G. Wodehouse

July 22, 2021 Book Reviews 7 ★★★★½

The Code of the Woosters, by P. G. WodehouseThe Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse
Narrator: Jonathan Cecil
Series: Jeeves #7
Published by AudioGO on May 1, 2012 (originally published 1938)
Genres: Fiction, Humor
Format: Audiobook
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Audible
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four-half-stars

“To dive into a Wodehouse novel is to swim in some of the most elegantly turned phrases in the English language.”―Ben Schott

Follow the adventures of Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves, in one of the greatest comic novels in the English language. Aunt Dahlia demands that Bertie Wooster help her dupe an antique dealer into selling her an 18th-century cow-creamer. Dahlia trumps Bertie's objections by threatening to sever his standing invitation to her house for lunch, an unthinkable prospect given Bertie's devotion to the cooking of her chef, Anatole. A web of complications grows as Bertie's pal Gussie Fink-Nottle asks for counseling in the matter of his impending marriage to Madeline Bassett. It seems Madeline isn't his only interest; Gussie also wants to study the effects of a full moon on the love life of newts. Added to the cast of eccentrics are Roderick Spode, leader of a fascist organization called the Saviors of Britain; Madeline's father, a magistrate who once fined Bertie £5, who also wants that cow-creamer; the unscrupulous Stiffy Byng; and an unusual man of the cloth known as Rev. H. P. "Stinker" Pinker. As usual, butler Jeeves becomes a focal point for all the plots and ploys of these characters, and in the end only Jeeves's cleverness can rescue Bertie from being arrested, lynched, and engaged by mistake!

Laugh-out-loud humor

P. G. Wodehouse* is one of those authors I always intended to read, and never got around to… until recently. When The Code of the Woosters (often considered one of Wodehouse’s best) went on sale at Chirp just when I was in the mood for a light and humorous audiobook, I decided it was finally time.

The Code of the Woosters is classic Wodehouse humor. The book is written from the perspective of Bertram (“Bertie”) Wooster, a somewhat fatuous 1920s-era upperclass Englishman with a remarkable talent for getting entangled in one awkward situation after another, and insufficient wit for getting himself out of them again. Luckily for Bertie, his valet-cum-butler Jeeves possesses quite enough brains enough for the both of them. And those brains are needed, as Bertie finds himself entangled in a series of madcap schemes involving a silver cow-shaped creamer, two pairs of star-crossed lovers, a hapless policeman, a bully, a fanatical collector (who is also a magistrate as well as father and uncle to the two young ladies involved), and Bertie’s own formidable Aunt. It will take all of Jeeves’s ingenuity and sang-froid to keep his master from ending up either engaged or in jail.

Wodehouse does a remarkable job of building both tension and laughs, expertly conveying the comedy of each situation without ever breaking the narrative “voice,” even when Bertie (as the first-person narrator) is unaware of the humor himself. His characters are, to be sure, caricatures, but so marvelously done that they are funny in and of themselves, and anything deeper would be out place. And Jonathan Cecil’s reading is both pitch perfect and laugh-out-loud funny; I found myself snort-laughing more than once while listening. (Thankfully no-one was around except my husband, who is used to hearing my occasional exclamations or laughter when I’m deep in a book.)

I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to the Jeeves and Wooster novels, and look forward to reading or listening to more of them in the future.

*pronounced “Woodhouse”

(Counted toward the Audiobook Challenge 2021, COYER Seasons: Spring 2021, and The Backlist Reader Challenge 2021)

Sayers and Wodehouse

As a long-time fan of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, I was immediately struck by the similarities between Bertie Wooster and Lord Peter in his “fatuous-ass-about-town” guise, and between Jeeves and the indomitable Bunter, Lord Peter’s manservant. Sayers was familiar with (and possibly a fan of) Wodehouse’s novels, so it’s not impossible that she based a few aspects of her characters loosely on Wooster and Jeeves. She even includes references to the Wodehouse series in two of her books. In Strong Poison, Lord Peter irritably admonishes Bunter not to talk like Jeeves, while in Murder Must Advertise, one of the character describes the undercover Peter as “Bertie Wooster in horn-rims.” However, the resemblance is only superficial. Lord Peter possesses far more brains than Bertie or even Jeeves himself, and he is far more complex emotionally—particularly as the series progresses. Bunter’s imperturbable facade is very like that of Jeeves, but he too displays more depth than Wodehouse’s character, as well as an unspoken but touchingly fierce loyalty to Peter.

Sources:

four-half-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Audiobook Challenge 2021
  • COYER Seasons 2021: Spring
  • The Backlist Reader Challenge 2021

7 Responses to “The Code of the Woosters, by P. G. Wodehouse”

  1. Katherine

    I love Jeeves though I have found that I much prefer Jeeves with Bertie as I listened to one that didn’t involve him and didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. I need to go find some more Jeeves books. It sounds just the thing I need after a tough week.

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