You don’t have to be an Anglophile to love Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, as Sebastian Faulks well knows. The best-selling author of “Birdsong” and “Charlotte Gray” has turned his considerable talents to a literary homage to P.G. Wodehouse. The result is the wonderful “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells,” which was written with the approval of the Wodehouse estate.
In his Author’s Note, Faulks writes:
This book is intended as a tribute – from me, and on behalf of any others who don’t think it falls too lamentably short of the mark – to P.G. Wodehouse: a thank you for all the pleasure his work has given. . . .Wodehouse’s prose is a glorious thing; and there’s the rub. I didn’t want to write too close an imitation of that distinctive music for fear of sounding flat or sharp. Nor did I want to drift into parody. What I therefore tried to do was give people who haven’t read the Jeeves books a sense of what they sound like; while for those who know them well I tried to provide a nostalgic variation. . .
It’s a “brighter world” that he conjures up in “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells.” Fresh from a trip to Cannes, Bertie Wooster finds himself in the country home of Sir Henry Hackwood – not as a guest, but Jeeves’ personal gentleman.
But hold on a minute. I see I’ve done it again: set off like the electric hare at the local dog track while the paying customers have only the foggiest idea of what’s going on. Steady on, Wooster, they’re saying: no prize for finishing first. What’s this buttling business, and why the assumed names? Are we at some fancy-dress ball? Put us in the picture, pray, murky though it be. . .
What’s it all about? In a word: love. The object of Bertie’s affections, one Georgiana Meadowes, is Sir Henry’s ward and is unfortunately betrothed to the wealthy writer of dreadful travelogues, while Bertie’s old chum Peregrine “Woody” Beeching is desperate to regain the heart of Sir Henry’s own daughter Amelia.
When Jeeves and Bertie rush to the rescue in this delightful homage, chaos – accompanied by a Wodehouse-inspired dose of hilarity – ensues. While Bertie, as usual, thinks that he is in charge of the situation, Jeeves of course prevails in the end, slyly leading Bertie to the happiest of endings.
Faulks has succeeded in capturing the tone and cadence and humor of Wodehouse’s wonderful prose:
I shall never forget the face that met mine through the glass. At first I thought I had seen a ghost, or revenant. The skin was ghastly white; the hairstyle owed plenty to the quills upon a fretful porpentine. The overall expression was that of a gorgon or Medusa. For what seemed an hour I stood transfixed; but it probably took no more than second for the Wooster brain, relaxed as it was by the liquid contents of Sir Henry’s ottoman, to register that the apparition was Dame Judith Puxley, readied for the night in thick cold cream and curling papers.
Acting of their own accord, the lower limbs whisked me away without demur and up the fire escape.
“Who’s there?” the old vixen called.
It is an unexpected pleasure to catch up with Jeeves and Bertie. Faulks has done P.G.Wodehouse proud.
“Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” is available at amazon.com and your favorite New York bookstores.