P.G. Wodehouse entices us into the demesne of Blandings Castle - an apparent paradise where it is eternal high summer, with jolly parties, tea on the lawn and love trysts in the rose garden. But for Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, there is always something to disturb this tranquil scene.
Wodehouse, P.G (compilation pub 1981, orig pub 1915-1933).
Source: Personal copy
When I was originally making my Classics Club list, my husband consulted. He's a classic lit lover from childhood and I knew there were several titles he really wanted me to include. One of his favourite authors is P.G.Wodehouse, who I had never read, and he duly pulled his copy of Life at Blandings off our bookshelf and told me that I should put it on the list. So I did. What he sneakily did not tell me at the time is that Life at Blandings is not in fact a P.G.Wodehouse book, it's three - a compilation of three titles from the Blandings Castle series (Something Fresh, Summer Lightening and Heavy Weather). Of course, when I found that out Life at Blandings sunk straight to the bottom of the pile, as I prefer to tackle new-to-me authors in manageable chunks. . .not commit to three at once!
But recently I caught a few episodes of the BBC adaptation, Blandings and found myself sucked in by the clever (if wacky) humour. . . Life at Blandings snuck up the pile once more. And I'm so glad it did.
Although my favourite of the three was definitely Something Fresh, all of the books in this compilation were wonderful. At heart, they're romantic comedy with a real 1920's-1930's feel. In Something Fresh Ashe Mason and Joan Valentine both find themselves at Blandings Castle in pursuit of a missing Egyptian scarab and a true comedy of errors ensues. In Summer Lightening and Heavy Weather Ronald Fish has to convince his uncle, Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle to let him have his inheritance, even though he wants to use it to marry a chorus girl, Sue Brown. Pigs are stolen, lines are crossed and all looks lost more than once. However, all three books have that 'you know it's going to be alright in the end' feeling which I love in a romantic comedy.
That being said, it's the zany supporting characters that make the whole of Life at Blandings as much as the main plots. My favourite was undoubtedly the notorious and witty Galahad Threepwood, who holds the threat of publishing his (scandalous) memoirs above most of his family for the second two novels. However I'll also admit a soft spot for the gentle, pig-obsessed Lord Emsworth and his piggy pride and joy The Empress of Blandings. Beach, the much put-upon butler also wormed his way into my heart.
Overall, I can understand why P.G Wodehouse is dear to my husbands heart (and to that of many others). I'm truly glad that I've finally dived into his novels and can imagine turning to them again when I'm in the mood for gentle, witty, extremely well-written, atmospheric comedy. What more could you ask for??
Life at Blandings is the 10th book from my Classics Club list. I'm also counting it as the 'Classic by a new to me author' category of the Back to the Classics challenge.