Jeeves Takes Charge and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There's deja vu and there are actual repeats. I started reading Jeeves Takes Charge and Other Stories and it felt very familiar. That happens almost every time I read a Wodehouse, so I didn't think much of it. But by the second or third stories I realized I actually had read most, if not all, of what this collection has to offer.
And what does this collection have to offer? Well, for starters it includes one of my favorite Wodehouse lines: "She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built around her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season." There are plenty such gems. Here are the contents in summary with my two cents:
"Jeeves Takes Charge" was first published magazines in the United States in 1916 and in the UK in 1923. Odd that. After all, Wodehouse was English. Its first book publication was in 1925 in Carry on, Jeeves, a good solid starter in the Jeeves/Wooster line. Anywhoodle, this particular story is the one that introduces us to the amazing Jeeves, who swoops in, revives Wooster with one of his restorative pick-me-ups and is immediately hired as Wooster's gentleman's personal gentleman. It's a great mini version of nearly all the best stories that were to come involving this dynamic duo.
"Without the Option" is the story of how Wooster and a friend get done for misdemeanors, and Wooster feels bad enough for the position he's put his friend in that he goes to great lengths and personal embarrassment to right the situation...sort of. This is an excellent example of Wodehouse's oft used masquerade plots in which a character poses as someone else with the innocent intention of doing some good. Little good ever comes of it for the character. However, it usually comes with plenty of laughs for us readers.
"The Artistic Career of Corky" is one of Wodehouse's New York-based stories in which Wooster's struggling artist friend is in love with a chorus girl and at odds with his uncle. Never a fan of the NY stories and having read and seen a tv version this one numerous times, I skipped it this time.
"The Aunt and the Sluggard" is similar to the above story, in which an artistic friend (poet this time) named Rocky, who wishes nothing more than to live a lazy life, is forced into an unpleasant labor (unpleasant to him) and Wooster takes the burden upon himself. Everything seems shipshape until.... Another NY based story I really didn't enjoy as much as Wodehouse's England-based stories.
"Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest" is about a blighted manchild being dropped into Wooster's life. It contains some excellent descriptives, especially at the start, which showcases the reason Wodehouse is much better read than seen. You don't want to miss out on Wooster's narration. This story makes me want to enter rooms with the greeting, "Hel-lo, allo-allo-allo-ALLO! What?"
"Jeeves and the Hard Boiled Egg" tells of the predicament one of Wooster's NY chums finds himself in and the clever scheme Jeeves cooks up to settle the matter. Knowing this one all too well, I skipped through it, but I can recommend it well enough. Short as it is, it packs some good punches, especially the jabs at Americans.
Once I figured out these were stories taken from another source I was ready to give it up. However, this was an audiobook (very well narrated by Alexander Spencer) and I was doing a longish drive, so why not speed down memory lane once more with some good old friends?
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