I received this lovely copy of ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells’ courtesy of Random House India.
Another Sequel to another great series. Sceptical? I understand. So was I. But as much as we bonafide bibliophiles rant and rave about preserving the authenticity of classics, most of us do at some point or other succumb to the allure of trying to relive the magic of a beloved character in a new story. I freely admit to having read all the sequels to Gone with the wind by various authors over the past few decades. I have also read a few Jane Austen sequels, but when you start finding Jane Austen in a Vampire coven, you know you just need to stop. Then there is Sherlock, married to a woman with Sherlock-like powers. It gets a bit too much sometimes. There’s a new Poirot in the pipelines by the way. Terrible, I know but also true that I will try to read it as soon as I can.
And so, we come to the crux of the matter. We are assembled here to discuss the sequel, or ‘pastiche’ as is politically deemed correct in today’s world, to P.G. Wodehouse’s beloved character Bertie Wooster. And since I have been waxing eloquent about P.G. Wodehouse for the past few weeks, I assume most of you know how I feel about him. So it was with trepidation and a kernel of hope in my heart that I began this difficult undertaking by Sebastian Faulks.
First off, the cover was not whimsical enough for me. And since I have been into the color and whimsy thing many times before, I will refrain from further comment except to say, I just can’t understand why they couldn’t have made it more Wooster-appropriate. There is such a thing as being over modernistic in art.
I usually skip the introductions in most books (don’t judge me), but here I felt it was incumbent upon me to understand what an author felt on undertaking such a Herculean task of trying to mimic a genius. And I was surprised to find, I instantly liked the guy. In little more than one page (always a point in the speech-writer’s favour) the author conveys his misgivings and his advice to readers who are picking up his book all over the world; some of them like me with mixed feelings and some with the innocence and blind faith of a 3-year-old child. Further surprise came when I realised that the author was indeed right about the reading experience (yes, I am really that cynical).
The plot is not really as sticky as some of the original Wodehouse stories, but it does hold true to the basic theme of a bumbling Bertie Wooster; so here goes. Wooster falls for a girl who is engaged to be married to another man in order to save the family estate of her loving Uncle, who brought her up with love and care when her parents died. Bertie being the honorable chap he is, refuses to even think of what might have been and plays the perfect gentlemen even when you get the distinct impression that the girl is giving him pretty broad hints in the love department.The girl’s cousin and said Uncle’s daughter, is engaged to Wooster’s friend Woody, but breaks off the engagement when she catches him canoodling, apparently innocently enough, with some dames from the village. Woody approaches Wooster, or more precisely Jeeves, for advice and the upshot is that Jeeves and Wooster arrive at the home of the love-interest(s) as impostors in order to smooth the path of true love. Wooster doesn’t know / acknowledge he is in love and so it goes on. I loved Mrs. Tilman.
Hmmmm. I don’t want to be rude, but my main problem was that Bertie came across as too intelligent and though Jeeves has always been a force to be reckoned with, his presence in the book is too in-your-face. He doesn’t ‘shimmer’ in and out as he usually did or control the strings of the drama with quite the subtlety that he evinced in the original works. These are small considerations and overall the book is good. The initial slowness and lack of Wodehousian quips begins to grow on you as you progress and feels comfortable enough, maybe not quite like an old shoe, but close enough. It leaves you itching to straighten a few creases and rub-out a few corners, but never really induces a reaction where you want to dump the book on the floor and jump on it in frustration, as some other pastiche’s have been known to do.
So yes, I would recommend this book to Wodehouse fans as an effort worth appreciating. Go ahead, give it a try without worrying too much. You will enjoy it alright.
P.S. Can someone get me a copy of, ‘The Mystery of the Gabled House’?