Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
“The twists and turns, the divine language and ‘Woosterisms’ make this a most engaging book. The writing feels authentic and well crafted without leaning too heavily toward an impersonation of the original.”
Traditionally, when life is hard the tendency is to reflect and look back at “the good old days.” We slip on those rose-tinted glasses and wallow in the nostalgia of times gone by when life was simple and orderly, and the days were always sunny. It seems publishers are following suit with a growing trend of commissioning successful authors to write new novels using characters created by their long-dead contemporaries as disparate as Ian Fleming and Jane Austen.
The latest to pick up the gauntlet in this lucrative field is Sebastian Faulks who has already moonlighted successfully as Ian Fleming. This time Faulks boldly risks the wrath of devotees by writing Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, a brand new story packed with the jolly japes of the inimitable Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, his loyal valet. P. G. Wodehouse wrote more than 90 novels and hundreds of short stories, but arguably Jeeves and Wooster are his most famous and well-loved characters.
Although they first appeared in a short story in 1915, these characters are hugely popular: In 2014 they are “on stage” in a play in the West End of London and also featured in an acclaimed television series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (House) playing the respective roles. Now, in the capable and fresh hands of Faulks, their antics are as engaging as ever.
Endeavoring to get over a failed romance with a girl so beautiful her laughter “made the sound of a frisky brook going over the strings of a particularly well-tuned harp,” Bertie Wooster agrees to help a chum with his own foundering courtship. Inevitably this simple plan evolves into a complex conundrum with assumed names and Bertie as manservant—or “buttling” as he describes it—to one Lord Etringham, who in reality is his very own loyal Jeeves.
The antics are mostly acted out at a substantial country pile called Melbury Hall, a somewhat “handsome affair in reddish brick with stone bits here and there.” At this grand abode the reader is privileged not only to peek at the landed gentry’s fine living, but also to engage in the “below stairs” lives of their servants. It is a glimpse of Downton Abbey combined with a pinch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, a reenactment of Shakespeare’s comedy of romance features in the plot, neatly delivering both a fine parallel, and the climax the reader hopes for.
The twists and turns, the divine language and “Woosterisms” make this a most engaging book. The writing feels authentic and well crafted without leaning too heavily toward an impersonation of the original. If it perhaps misses the occasional comedic beat who would not forgive him for just falling short of the incomparable skills of the maestro?
Describing himself as “just a fan” rather than an “expert or mastermind on things Wodehousean” Faulks defines his thoroughly enjoyable book as a personal tribute to P. G. Wodehouse. One imagines the great man himself (Wooster, B. that is, by jove) might well be dashed proud, don’t you know.