The Scandal of the Stolen Scarab!
😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂
When the Hon. Freddie Threepwood gets engaged to American heiress Aline Peters, Lord Emsworth is thrilled. As a younger son, the Hon. Freddie has been a trial and a tribulation to him, and the idea of him settling down with a rich wife is a great relief to what one might loosely describe as Lord Emsworth’s mind. Lord Emsworth’s mind is mostly notable for being absent, though, and this leads him to accidentally steal a valuable scarab from Mr Peters, Aline’s father – the pride of his collection. Mr Peters knows that to denounce the theft would break up the engagement, and he’s as keen on getting Aline married into the British aristocracy as Lord Emsworth is to marry Freddie to American money. So Mr Peters lets it be known that he will handsomely reward anyone who steals the scarab back and returns it to him. Enter Joan Valentine, an old school friend of Aline who is in need of money. Joan decides to head off to Blandings Castle, Lord Emsworth’s seat, in the guise of being Aline’s maid, to steal the scarab and get the reward. Imagine her surprise when she finds her neighbour, Ashe Marson, has also turned up at Blandings purporting to be Mr Peters’ valet, with the same intention. The competition is on for who will get to the scarab first, but the general air of misunderstandings and romantic entanglements at Blandings make the task far from simple…
I’ve always preferred the Jeeves and Wooster books to the Blandings books, mainly because I love Bertie Wooster and have never found any of the Blandings regulars as likeable. So it’s been a long number of years since I last read a Blandings book, until I was encouraged to do so by a recent review from Julé at Gallimaufry Book Studio. Noting that my favourite Jeeves and Wooster narrator, Jonathan Cecil, had recorded the first Blandings book was an extra incentive. And I enjoyed it a lot!
Despite it being a Blandings book, the Emsworth family play a rather secondary role, and I think that works to the book’s advantage. Instead the leads are Ashe and Joan and they’re both very likeable characters whom the reader would like to see succeed in their mission and achieve a happy ending. It’s a Wodehouse book, so of course happy endings are guaranteed! Joan is one of Wodehouse’s modern, feisty heroines with a mind of her own, a spirit of adventure and a determination to make her own way in the world. But that doesn’t make her immune to the charms of a man who appreciates her independence and admires her for it, like, for example, young Ashe. He has made a living writing pulp detective stories for magazines but is heartily sick of it and wants to try something different. The reward Mr Peters is offering will give either of them the means to make a fresh start in life.
As well as the upstairs characters, we spend a lot of time below stairs with the servants, from Beach, the hypochondriac but immensely dignified butler, to the gossiping valets of the various guests who exchange scandalous and sometimes scurrilous stories about their employers past and present. Despite the main characters in Wodehouse’s books being culled from among the upper class, he’s actually not nearly as snobbish as many of his contemporaries. He sends up both high and low equally, and laughs at the aristocrats for the same kinds of quirks as he mocks in his servants. Just as Jeeves is at least Bertie’s equal, so Beach, though a figure of fun, is easily the intellectual and organisational superior of Lord Emsworth. If anything, the servant class has the upper hand over the aristos, even though they show all due deference to their ‘masters’. This somehow means the books feel less dated than they should, despite their belonging to a specific social level at a specific point in time. It’s an idealised, impossibly innocent world for sure, but all the more fun for that!
Needless to say, everything comes right at the end. Sundered hearts are united with true loves, and no one is left unhappy or heart-broken at the end. The sun always shines even when it rains, all’s right with the rightest of all possible worlds and everyone is destined to live happily ever after. Well, at least until the next time Wodehouse takes up his pen and throws them all into a different set of confusions and turmoil! I still prefer the Jeeves books, but enjoyed my visit to Blandings and will spend more time there in future.