Monday, November 2, 2009

Leave It to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse

Because my local libraries don't have copies of Psmith, Journalist, I skipped it for now and read the last of the Psmith books, Leave It to Psmith. I have to say that I found it the most enjoyable of the three I've read so far.

It was interesting to read a story with characters from Wodehouse's earlier, more realistic works, in a setting from his later, more fantastic works. Blandings Castle turns out to be a fantasy of mistaken identity, stolen household items, and courtships gone awry, and all of those elements are here, but they are more subdued. The characters are not caricatures as they will nearly be in later Blandings novels.

Psmith becomes more human, as well, when he finally gets something in his life which excites him. When I finished reading Psmith in the City I thought I wouldn't like to know Psmith in real life, but his character here, while still pompous and egotistical, is much easier to like. When I read the previous Psmith books, I liked Jackson much more than Psmith. Jackson barely makes an appearance in this book, but I didn't mind being alone with Psmith so much.

Many Blandings and Jeeves books involve the possibility of engagements, but usually it is either a minor character getting engaged, so I don't really care too much if it works out, or it's Bertie Wooster trying to get unengaged. This book was different because it is a main character trying to get engaged, and it made it much more enjoyable.

Also, often when the engaged parties are secondary characters, the girl is nothing more than sweet and pretty. Wodehouse writes good women, though, like Sally Nichols, and he does so again here with Eve Halliday. She has enough of an independent spirit about her to not just be overwhelmed by Psmith's eccentricities.

The hardest part of reviewing this book is deciding if I would recommend reading the other Psmith books first. While I think I enjoyed this book more because I did read the others, I still think that, without an adequate handle on the rules of cricket, large sections of the other books' climaxes will be unintelligible. This book features no cricket at all, and the backstory between Psmith and Jackson is recounted in the first few chapters to get an unaccustomed reader through. Although it's also a Blandings novel, it's only the second, so it is also forgiving on that score. I'd say a reader can just jump into this one without any other Wodehouse books under his belt first.

Rating: 6.5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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