Fiction – hardcover; Everyman; 260 pages; 2005.
Looking for something lighthearted and fun to read? Then look no further than P.G. Wodehouse’s Something Fresh, the first in his Blandings Castle series.
First published in 1915, it captures an England from a different era, where maids and butlers and valets looked after the bumbling upper classes with aplomb and where single women who worked for a living were frowned upon. But despite this, the book doesn’t feel particularly dated, perhaps because there’s a lightness of touch that makes it so effortless and enjoyable to read.
The plot revolves around an incredibly rare and valuable scarab — that’s the funny bug-like thing pictured on the front cover — which Lord Emsworth absent-mindedly pockets during an inspection of a collection put together by a retired American millionaire, Mr Peters. When Mr Peters discovers the scarab is missing he knows who has taken it but is unable to confront “the darned old sneak-thief” because his daughter is about to marry Lord Emsworth’s son in a lavish wedding at Blandings Castle.
What follows is a kind of farce in which Mr Peters tries to get his scarab back. He offers a substantial reward to anyone who can retrieve it for him, and it is here that two rivals — Ashe Marson, a poorly paid writer of detective stories, and Joan Valentine, a magazine correspondent, both from London — clash swords.
Throw in an overweight private detective, a rich “idiot child”, a fussy butler and an efficient private secretary, among others, and the comic world of P.G. Wodehouse comes truly alive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. And while I didn’t find it as hugely funny as I’d been lead to expect, I tittered quite a bit, mainly at the clever word play, and I emitted a lot of loud gaffaws when I came across the book’s very funny climax. More please.