The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse

The Totleigh Towers Horror…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Sir Watkyn Bassett’s country seat at Totleigh Towers is probably the last place in the world Bertie Wooster would choose to visit. In his role as magistrate, Sir Watkyn once fined Bertie five pounds for the crime of stealing a policeman’s helmet. Unfortunately Sir Watkyn has forgotten the details of the crime, and thinks Bertie is a habitual criminal whom he sent to jail. But when Bertie receives an anguished plea from his old pal Gussie Finknottle, he is horrified to learn that Madeline has broken off her engagement to the aforesaid newt-fancying Gussie. Madeline, regular readers will know, thinks Bertie loves her and is quite likely to decide to marry him unless he can find a way to patch things up between the sundered lovers. Add to this the fact that Aunt Dahlia wants him to steal a silver cow-creamer from Sir Watkyn, and it seems fate has decided that Bertie must enter the lion’s den. Fortunately Jeeves will be by his side…

This is one of the best of the Jeeves and Wooster books, filled with all the regulars and a plot that gets ever more convoluted until Jeeves manages to sort everything out for the young master in the end. Madeline is as soupy as ever, still thinking that each time a bunny rabbit sneezes a wee star is born. One can quite understand Bertie’s reluctance to enter into the blessed state of matrimony with her. Gussie is as hopeless as ever – not only has he managed to offend Madeline, but he’s lost a notebook in which he has carefully jotted down some stinging insults about his host and Roderick Spode, a man whom it’s unwise to annoy unless one likes having one’s spine tied in a knot. In the interval since we last saw him, Spode has become an aspiring dictator. His followers wear black shorts – unfortunately other dictators had already used black and brown shirts, so his choices were somewhat limited. And to top it all off, Stiffy Byng wants Bertie to steal another policeman’s helmet! Dark days, indeed!

The plots are only part of what makes Wodehouse so wonderful though – and he does have a tendency to recycle the main points, like the Gussie-Madeline break-up. It’s the humour and general silliness of it all that makes them such a joy to read, combined with the certain knowledge that everything will be all right in the end, thanks to Jeeves. And most of all, it’s the wonderful use of language…

He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

It was a silver cow. But when I say ‘cow’, don’t go running away with the idea of some decent, self-respecting cudster such as you may observe loading grass into itself in the nearest meadow. This was a sinister, leering, Underworld sort of animal, the kind that would spit out of the side of its mouth for twopence.

I remembered something Jeeves had once called Gussie. “A sensitive plant, what?”
“Exactly. You know your Shelley, Bertie.”
“Oh, am I?”

“The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

She laughed – a bit louder than I could have wished in my frail state of health, but then she is always a woman who tends to bring plaster falling from the ceiling when amused.

He was, as I had already been able to perceive, a breathtaking cove. About seven feet in height, and swathed in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across, he caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.”

I listened to the audiobook this time, narrated by Martin Jarvis. He does a great job, giving each person a distinctive voice well suited to his or her character. His Madeline in particular had me in hoots. It occurred to me that men “doing” Wodehouse women actually works rather better than when women act them, because they’re written very much from Bertie’s perspective and he’s baffled by them on the whole. A woman acting Madeline is never as funny as Bertie’s descriptions of her. I usually look out for Jonathan Cecil’s narrations of the Jeeves books, but Jarvis was just as good once I got used to his different style.

Altogether, great fun! You either ‘get’ Wodehouse’s humour or you don’t, and for those of us who do, there’s no greater pleasure than a visit to his world. I hope you’re one of the lucky ones too…

Book 22 of 90

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

47 thoughts on “The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse

  1. Wodehouse’s work really is a lot of fun, isn’t it, FictionFan? I cannot believe I’ve not yet featured any of it on my Spotlight series. I really must. Soon. Little wonder Christie was such an admirer of Wodehouse’s books.

    • Oh, yes, you should! Haha – there’s always plenty of crime going on, that’s for sure! Never trust the upper classes… 😉 Yes, and Wodehouse was a big admirer of detective fiction too – Bertie’s usually trying to get a moment to read the latest one amidst all the mayhem around him…

  2. This is one of the best J&W books I reckon and this review had me smiling all the way through. I’m very much in the camp that ‘gets’ Wodehouse, as you know, and he has always been a huge influence. It is such silly, harmless humour and I love the comfort of picking up any Wodehouse and sort of knowing exactly what to expect. Delightful!

    • Yes, it’s total comfort reading because however dark the storm clouds overhead, we know Jeeves will waft them all away and restore the sunshine – I also love that there’s so much sunshine! I’d love to live in that part of England, wherever it is…

      I’m reading one at the moment that you’re going to love… 😉

      • I wonder if an England like that ever really did exist? I suspect not, but we can make believe that it was true, once upon a time… as all the very best stories should 🙂
        Oooh! This sounds promising! Although my TBR is growing to mighty proportions already. Even so, I await the review with great interest! 😀

    • They’re like chocolate cake for the soul! It took me a bit of time to warm up to Martin Jarvis’s reading because I’m such a fan of Jonathan Cecil narrating the Jeeves books, but once I got over that, I thought Jarvis did excellently. I’ll happily look out for him again… 🙂

  3. Wodehouse is a gem! My dad swears up and down this is his best and while I do love it my favorite of Wodehouse’s currently is Leave it to Psmith. Have you read it?

    • I love this one, but for me the absolute best is Right Ho, Jeeves – just love Tuppy and the steak pie! I read the Psmith books way back in my teens but have never revisited them. Back then, I preferred the Jeeves books, but I must try them again and see what my… ahem…. more mature self thinks of them… 😉

    • I’ve been listening to the audiobooks because I never seem able to fit the actual words books in for a re-read. These and the Christies seem perfectly suited to audio somehow… 🙂

  4. How did I miss this one? Another great review, FF. And honestly, the line “each time a bunny rabbit sneezes a wee star is born”, is kind of endearing, really. I love bunny rabbits, and this sort of whimsy makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (though maybe not for a lifetime, ha!)

    • Hahaha! I’m glad someone finally likes poor Madeline – she means well! She also thinks the stars are God’s daisy chain. And each day she goes round the garden saying Good Morning to each of the flowers… 😀

  5. I’ve come to realize that Wodehouse is a bit like an addictive drug. Pretty regularly I find myself getting a craving for a Wodehouse fix! This is definitely an all-time favorite, along with ‘Joy in the Morning.’ Thanks for the review!

    • Yes, indeed – some days are definitely Wodehouse days! I’m loving revisiting them all on audio – I know them so well, but the different narrations make them feel fresh again. Must revisit Joy in the Morning… 😀

      • Joy in the Morning was my first Wodehouse, and I feel in love during the first sentence – ‘when peril ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls…’

    • Yes, Wodehouse is addictive–it’s so hard writing under the influence of Wodehouse in a George R. R. Martin world.

    • Hahaha – I know! I fear if a man called Fink-Nottle proposed to me I would insist in keeping my maiden name. Unless my maiden name happened to be Potter-Pirbright… 😉

  6. You sold me on Wodehouse a while back, but I can’t seem to squeeze his work into my reading schedule. However, now that I know they are in audio book form, I’m going to see those versions out for my commute! Two questions:

    1) Do the audio book narrators read with a speedy clip? I have a hard time following most accents if they speak too quickly because my hearing is not good.

    2) What the heck does this mean: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

    • The audiobooks are great fun. I think I’d recommend Martin Jarvis then – he’s a bit slower and clearer than Jonathan Cecil, I think, and his voice is a little lower. You can listen to samples on Audible if that would help…

      Hahahahaha! I fear there’s quite a lot of that sort of stuff in it. Here goes: “Look at that idiotic fool Spode showing off in soccer shorts! Did you ever in your life see such a complete cad?” 😉

    • Haha – the cats think I’m insane. I listen to the books through headphones, so there’s no noise and suddenly I start giggling, and they look at me with their little heads on the side and worried looks on their faces…

  7. Oh this has made me smile! And since I’m really not in a very smiley mood, that’s a real achievement. Jeeves and pals should be prescribed reading for grumps. Great review FF 🙂

    • Thanks, Sandra – glad it made you smile! Yes, I think Wodehouse should be available on the NHS – think of the savings on pills! Hope your unsmiley mood is banished soon… 😀

  8. Great….could not agree with you more. One of my favourites. Some time back, I had endeavoured to publish a series of blog posts based on this work of Plum’s.

    Wishing you Plummy times ahead!

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