I received this book courtesy of Random House India for review.
A trip to Blandings Castle is always one to rejuvenate jaded work-weary nerves. Pongo Twiselton is the hapless nephew in this book. I often wonder about the number of P.G.Wodehouse’s aunts and uncles. Only bitter experience can create true genius and such accuracy of characters as the author presents in his books. Look around my Indian friend, and you will find encroaching aunts and presumptuous uncles abound around you.
We meet the hapless Pongo looking to ‘touch’ his friends and relatives for a few hundred pounds that he owes a bookie. The trouble with Pongo is that he is just not shameless or ruthless enough to do the job. I mean asking someone for money to pay someone else is not the job for the faint-hearted or the gentlemanly. And as he runs out of likely options, he must turn to his Uncle Fred. Uncle Fred is rather prone to believing he is still a trouble-making, carefree, 20-something ‘slightly inebriated undergraduate’, on the prowl in London when he is not under the sharp supervision of his dear wife; he invariably drags his dear prone-to-nerves nephew Pongo along with him on his escapades. Naturally, Pongo wants to maintain as much distance between his Uncle and himself as possible and it is with a heavy heart that he must turn his steps towards his Uncle’s home to look for a solution to his money troubles. As luck would have it, Pongo’s aunt has just left home and Uncle Fred is feeling the tickle in his toes, the wind in his hair and the blood pumping through his veins as he looks forward to a jaunt in London in the lovely springtime.
Meanwhile, Pongo’s sister Valerie has just broken off her engagement with Horace because he hired a private investigator, called Mr. Pott, to follow her around while she was on holiday. Horace has an Uncle Alaric, the Duke of Dunstable, who has just broken his sitting room furniture with a poker in a fit of petulant rage and has then proceeded to invite himself to Blandings castle as Lord Emsworth’s guest. Lord Emsworth is not really fond of his house guest and when the Duke makes a completely atrocious demand of his host, Lord Emsworth can think of only one man who can help him – Uncle Fred.
And so when presented with a tantalizing problem that has so many inter-personnel connections, Uncle Fred swings into action and hauls Pongo and Mr Pott’s daughter under assumed names to Blandings castle. As do Horace, Valerie and the fiance of Mr. Pott’s daughter. And thus the action begins.
That’s the story in a nutshell.
Lord Emsworth and the empress came a far second in this tale, completely overshadowed by the antics of Uncle Fred. For some reason, even though Uncle Fred manages to help everyone and get them exactly what they most desired, I am unable to become his fan. There is no getting away from the fact that he is too smart for his own good. And yes, I do realize that I have a personality fast approaching the one of Bertie’s aunt Agatha.
The story is quintessentially P.G. Wodehousian, but the mind-boggling number of twists and turns sometimes feel a bit too much. And always worth a second, third or fourth reading.