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Faulks Imitation Wodehouse mainly hits the mark

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Jeeves and the Wedding Bells: An Homage to P.G. Wodehouse. By Sebastian Faulks. New York: St. Martin’s, 2013. 243 pages.

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If you’ve never read a P.G. Wodehouse novel, I envy you. You have a great thrill awaiting you. One summer when I was unemployed, I read 40 or more of them, I think. You see, there are many. He was unusually productive writer, writing more than 96 books (not to mention plays and lyrics for musicals as well as short stories) over his 70 year career. Most of his plots are set in Britain before and after the Great War, and his most popular characters are Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. Unfortunately Wodehouse died in 1975, so there haven’t been any new Jeeves and Bertie adventures since then.

The novelist Sebastian Faulks—like Christopher Hitchens, John Le Carrèa, and J.K Rawling, among others—is a long-time fan of the great Wodehouse and has attempted to re-create the inimitable Wodehouse style and the improbable Wodehouse plots in this work, which he says is a tribute to Wodehouse, a “thank-you for all the pleasure his work has given.” Faulks is a considerable writer, his best known work being perhaps the World War I novel Birdsong.

And Faulks does a pretty darned good job of it, too. We have the gallant if somewhat dense Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. Jeeves is perhaps Wodehouse’s greatest creation. He is the tricky slave familiar from Roman comedy. His master, Bertie, is forever getting into scrapes, getting engaged to girls he doesn’t really love just to keep from being rude or ungallant. And Jeeves has always been the one who solves Bertie’s problems for him. Got the angry aunts or uncles to forgive, found a way for Bertie to help his friends and escape the engagements, whatever was necessary.

Jeeves solves Bertie’s problems in Faulks’ book, too, but in a way that may surprise long-time readers of Wodehouse’s work.

www.wodehouse.co.uk

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