Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mike and Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse

I've decided that, for reasons of mental health, I should always be reading a P.G. Wodehouse book. Lucky for me, he wrote about a dozen gross of them. Although I am currently in the middle of The Adventures of Sally, when at the library last I decided to bring Mike and Psmith with me on vacation, as it was thinner and it seemed more likely I'd have time to read it.

This book was originally the second half of a much longer book. The first half was about Mike at a public school (which in England means a private school) named Wrykyn, and the second half was about how his father withdrew him from Wrykyn and sent him to Sedleigh, where he meets Rupert Psmith ("the P is silent, as in pshrimp").

I had two recurring thoughts while reading this book: 1. "A book about Mike without Psmith would probably be fairly dull," and 2. "Man, am I glad I read Cricket Explained by Robert Eastaway last year." Mike plays cricket (that is, in fact, why his father removed him from Wrykyn), and the game factors pretty heavily into the plot. Not that the book would be unintelligible otherwise, but there would be a fair amount of the cricket humor that would be lost. There are two different test matches described in the book, and the suspense and relief would be missing from the appropriate spots.

Like any Wodehouse book, this was a joy to read. Seeing as I was stuck on the worst vacation in my life (so far), this book was heavily appreciated. Having read Jeeves and Wooster stories and books, I could see how Psmith fills the same role as Jeeves, but with a bit more recklessness, seeing as Psmith is still a boy. Although the action is happening to Mike, Psmith is the more imposing character, and I believe Wodehouse would agree, since he went on to write three more books about Psmith.

These schoolboy stories were among the first Wodehouse published (in fact, the material in this book was first published 100 years ago), and so the intricately-tangled plot of a later Wodehouse novel is not present. Still, although it is not as impossible to see how Mike will get out of the soup, as it were, it is a pleasure to find out exactly how Psmith goes about accomplishing it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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