Friday, May 25, 2012

Service With a Smile

by P.G. Wodehouse

Not all is well at Blandings Castle, where Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, is plagued by an officious secretary, Lavender Biggs, who plots for bigger things; his quarrelsome sister, Constance; and the windbag Duke of Dunstable, a self-invited guest who wants to steal Emsworth’s prize pig to sell to a rival (or back to Emsworth himself, if he must).  Add to this that a curate is staying at the castle under false pretenses to be with his beloved, a millionaire’s daughter whom Constance has no intention of letting marry a curate; and the Duke’s nephew, a nice fellow who just needs a thousand pounds to settle down with his girl, and not Myra, whom he has inadvertently gotten engaged to as well.  It takes a bit of dissimulation and plotting from the always affable, unflappable Frederick, Earl of Ickenham, to get everyone, or nearly everyone, a happy ending (“there is always apt to be trouble when you start spreading sweetness and light,” he muses.  “You find there isn’t enough to go around and someone has to be left out of the distribution”).

This is a fine Emerson and Uncle Fred story, a little light entertainment with the typical madcap scenarios and whirlwind semi-solutions.  I never think that these stories approach the polished genius of Bertie and Jeeves (and this one doesn’t even have the Efficient Baxter, whose presence as a foil to Emsworth helps greatly).  Still, it’s a fun romp in typical Wodehouse style.

four stars

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