Tuesday 23 March 2010

And my favourite title is...

What a wonderful selection of favourite titles you all came up with! I'm almost reluctant to put my review up, as I loved hearing them all - do keep letting me know your favourite title, on the previous post, and perhaps I'll do a post on my favourites from them, sometime next week.

A few of my favourites, before I tell you my *absolute* favourite, and then tell you that the novel was pretty good too...

I love:

Tea Is So Intoxicating - Mary Essex
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes - Anita Loos
The Brontes Went To Woolworths - Rachel Ferguson
Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead - Barbara Comyns
No One Now Will Know - EM Delafield

But the one that comes out on top, because it works on at least two levels, and is intrinsically funny, is... Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by PG Wodehouse.

Ok, wonderful title aside, this is also a great little novel. To be honest with you, I haven't met a PG Wodehouse novel I haven't devoured happily. According to my little drop-down author menu, the only Wodehouse I've written about on here was Indiscretions of Archie, another fab title, and enjoyable, but probably the worst of the Wodehouses I've read. Aunts Aren't Gentlemen is back on form - and the first Jeeves and Wooster novel I've read.

Wooster is sent off to the countryside by a doctor because of his 'young man about town' lifestyle has had a disastrous effect on his general health. He plumps for an Aunt in Worcestershire (land of my upbringing!)

"Is the air pure there?"

"Excursion trains are run for people to breathe it."

"Your life would be quiet?"

"Practically unconscious."

Sadly, said Aunt Dahlia is herself off to Maiden Eggesford, Somerset (she's following me around the country!) and so Wooster decides to follow her there, Jeeves in tow, naturally.

It is one of those villages where there isn't much to do except walk down the main street and look at the Jubilee watering-trough and then walk up the main street and look at the Jubilee watering-trough from the other side.
This bit amused me, because whenever Mel and I visit a little village, we look out for their Millennium Project. Every village has one, usually fairly humble, and generally unveiled in mid 2003. I've seen Millennium benches, signposts, woods, stones... all sorts.

This being Wodehouse, all sorts of coincidences have come together to make more or less everyone Wooster knows turn up in Maiden Eggesford. There's a woman he once asked to marry him, as well as her more recent beau; there's a man he once cheated and gave a fake identity to; there is even Jeeves' own aunt. It all gets a little complicated as two rival households are going in for a horse race, only one of the horses is closely attached to a cat, and is inconsolable without it... and Aunt Dahlia (betting on the other horse) decides to have the cat kidnapped. Or catnapped, if you will. Hence the title - it's not cricket, she is not acting like a gentleman. And so it all begins.

I love Wodehouse's writing, with its mixture of hyperbole and litotes - I love the unbreakable calm of Jeeves, against Wooster's exaggerations and whimsical turn of phrase (I love that he always cheerfully calls Aunt Dahlia either 'aged relative' or 'old ancestor' - but don't think I'll be trying this out on my own aunts. Who are not, for that matter, particularly old):

"Have you ever seen a garrison besieged by howling savages, with their ammunition down to the last box of cartridges, the water supply giving out and the United States Marines nowhere in sight?"

"Not to my recollection, sir."

I just find Wodehouse endlessly funny. But I must confess - I thought Aunts Aren't Gentlemen would be my favourite ever Wodehouse, centring (as it does) around a cat - but, for some reason, the cat is given very little personality. I love reading about cats, and I'd have thought Wodehouse would be on top form writing about one... but perhaps he is not a cat person. Shame.

But, even though this doesn't reach the dizzying heights of its feline potential, it is great fun and very good - sometimes a Wodehouse just hits the spot in a way that no other book can. If you've never read one before - well, firstly, I'm a little horrified - secondly, why not start with this one?


  1. I almost put this title on my list! I love Wodehouse. They are always the perfect thing when you need a good belly laugh. My first Jeeves was Right Ho, Jeeves, so it remains one of my favorites. I read How Right You Are Jeeves last week, and told my dear friend that everybody ought to have at least a once-a-month dose of Wodehouse. Laughter is good medicine, after all. :)

    BTW, if anyone hasn't seen it, the bookdepository.uk is doing a giveaway of all 70 of the current Wodehouse hardbacks - there's a few trivia questions to answer to enter. It's on their homepage. (Imagine increasing your library by 70 and not impacting your "24," Simon!) :)

  2. I adore Wodehouse but still haven't read this one! I consumed far too many one summer and have been rationing myself every since. It's frustrating, but in a good way. I haven't read any Wodehouse this year, so maybe Aunts Aren't Gentlemen will be my indulgence for 2010. Though I must admit that my natural preference is for Psmith over Jeeves and Wooster.

  3. Douglas Adams would win it hands down for me becuase just about every book he wrote had a brilliant title. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? So Long and Thanks for all the Fish? The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul? Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency? Not to mention The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
    How could one ask for more?

  4. Better late than never: my favourites would be "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones" Alexander McCall Smith, and "The Merry Go Round in the Sea", Randolph Stow.

  5. I haven't yet read a Wodehouse and its something I really feel that I must do. I need to find one that is either a stand alone book or the first one in Jeeves series. I dont think I have any on the TBR pile though lol.

  6. Tea Is So Intoxicating - brilliant title!! And so accurate!


  7. Merenia is so right. I envy Alexander McCall Smith all his wonderful titles. Teatime for the Traditionally Built, The Right Attitude to Rain, The Careful Use of Compliments, and so on.

    And then there's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley.

  8. And on the PGW topic, I just adore Leave it to Psmith. And oh, the scene where he's impersonating Canadian poet Ralston McTodd, The Singer of Saskatoon*, while courting Eve, having no clue that said poet is married to Eve's friend Cynthia.

    *not to be confused with Joni Mitchell

    ARRGH! Just checked the bookshelves. Put the word out: Psmith has gone astray!

  9. In my youth ALL aunts were old - their stays creaked and they stored their teeth in a glass of water, next to the bed at night. They knitted too .... or am I thinking of Great Aunts? Oh golly, I'm both!

  10. I love all your best title choices! You know I just read my first Wodehouse and enjoyed it. Looking forward to more.

    On another note, just received my copy of Miss Hargreaves! My memories of this book just all point to you. :D


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