RogerBW's Blog

Summer Lightning, P. G. Wodehouse 28 February 2024

1929 comedy. All the couples are at odds, but more importantly, the Empress of Blandings is missing. US vt Fish Preferred.

I think this book suffers, when read in isolation, from its deep roots in the Wodehouseverse: Percy Pilbeam the annoying enquiry agent comes back from Bill the Conqueror, and Hugo Carmody and Ronnie Fish were both in Money for Nothing. One picks up who they are quickly enough, of course, because nobody here is a terribly deep or complex character, but I did find them more than usually idiotic even by the standards of Wodehouse's stock roles, and perhaps a recent recollection of their backgrounds might have helped get me in sympathy with them.

What's more of a problem, though, is that Wodehouse has doubled up on characters. Pilbeam is all very well, but The Efficient Baxter is also here, and their jobs in the narrative (to interfere, to do things that seem reasonable, and to be caught out and look stupid) are basically the same. Perhaps Ronnie Fish and Sue Brown are meant to be the Benedick and Beatrice to Hugo Carmody and Millicent Threepwood's Claudio and Hero, and Sue shows a bit more gumption than Millicent while Ronnie is prone to moodiness and pointless fits of jealousy; but to me at least they tend all to blur into each other, with enough material split between them for about one and a half Wodehouse standard farces.

Apart from that, down at the individual scene level, it works very well, with idiocy stacked on coincidence on idiocy until it takes Galahad Threepwood (working on his surely scandalous memoir) to sort everything out.

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  1. Posted by Rand Brittain at 11:30pm on 02 March 2024

    "Doubtless they have already been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha" from the intro to this book is one of my favorite Wodehouse phrases ever.

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