That’s right, in (nearly) 21 years I had not read anything written by P.G. Wodehouse. But that gap in my literary experience has now been filled, as I introduced myself to What Ho! The Best of Wodehouse. This is a pretty good (or so it seemed to me) anthology of Wodehouse stories, with an introduction by Stephen Fry, whom I unashamedly adore, and some more autobiographical writing with some letters and stories of his time in the USA.
I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s yet another must-read that I didn’t love. And, much like my post on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I feel really guilty saying that. I’m sorry, Wodehouse fans!
I didn’t find the stories hilariously funny, like so many people seem to. I probably laughed three times through the whole book. But that’s not to say that I didn’t find them entertaining – I enjoyed reading the stories and they definitely cheered me up. They just didn’t send me into fits of laughter, as the multiple celebrity quotes at the start of the book had promised.
But one thing that most certainly did come across as advertised was the famously lovely Wodehouse style of prose. His talent for choosing the perfect word and forming beautiful sentences is incredible. I cannot possibly do it justice by gushing, and I’m sure that many people will know it already, so I will just say that I hugely enjoyed being able to lose myself in the flow of the writing.
I think I may also have lost something by meeting the characters in an anthology, rather than reading a full book as it was originally written. So many people have a huge passion for the characters and their world, which is definitely necessary to really appreciate their stories, and which I was missing. I’m just about old enough to vaguely remember Fry and Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster, but I hadn’t even heard of the other characters before I picked up this book!
But the part of this anthology that I most enjoyed had nothing to do with any of Wodehouse’s fictional characters. The autobiographical writing and letters tagged onto the end of the anthology were the things that actually did have me laughing out loud, and I now have my eye on Wodehouse on Wodehouse, from which there was a truly funny extract in this book, and possibly P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, especially if I can get hold of it my local library. Further updates on those to come…
So, while my first taste of Wodehouse doesn’t have me running off to find the full books, it certainly hasn’t stopped me from wanting to read more. I fear he may have become a touch too revered, so I had a classic case of overly high expectations reading this book. Hopefully, if I try again with the originals, I’ll be able to love these characters too. And I really want to, because Wodehouse truly does deserve his reputation as a magnificent writer.