There is no one like P. G. Wodehouse. No one has his combination of humor, plot, characters and language. Not to mention the fun of reading about house parties in old castles, valets and butlers, ocean trips across the Atlantic, girls on the make, dressing for dinner, mad coincidences, traveling on the train (leaving just ahead of a wrathful aunt).
Our old library had about 50 Wodehouse novels and I read every one and bought more and read those too. For years it seemed as if Barnes & Noble or Amazon stocked the same 50 or 60 novels that everyone has – Jeeves and Wooster stories, a few trips to Blandings Castle, Galahad Threepwood and his buddy Uncle Fred – but neglected many of his less well-known stories.
I’m so glad to see Hoopla offers many of these novels that weren’t readily available. I’m borrowing one a month for now, such a treat. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have many more Wodehouse masterpieces now.
Jimmy Pitt, once a distinguished safe cracker and jewel thief, now a distinguished rich baronet, is dining alone at the Savoy Hotel when he notices a young man at a nearby table who shows all the signs of not having his wallet. Jimmy helps the fellow out. This is how Jimmy meets Spencer Blunt, who just happens to be the son of Lady Jane Blunt, now married to Mr. McEachern, formerly a New York policeman.
Of course Lady Jane and her society don’t know that Mr. McEarchern was a policeman and believe his money came from Wall Street, which is only partially true, as he certainly got some bribes while on that exciting street. McEarchern and Jimmy know each other (of course) and both know the other had been as crooked as could be, and both want to present reformed faces to the world.
Jimmy goes with Spencer to his mom’s and McEarchern’s home for an extended house party where he again meets Molly, McEarchern’s daughter. As usual with Wodehouse we have assorted nasty characters, love interests and naturally, Spencer’s obnoxious aunt who owns a pearl collar supposedly worth 40,000 pounds, or $200,000 at the exchange rate of those days. (This is roughly several million in today’s money.)
If you can see the plot thicken from here, then congratulations, you are a Wodehouse reader.
I thought The Gem Collector was a little more serious than some Wodehouse. For example, Lady Jane is “drawn to Mr. McEarchern. Whatever his faults, he had strength; and after her experience of married life with a weak man, Lady Jane had come to the conclusion that strength was the only male quality worth consideration.” “She suspected no one. She liked and trusted everybody, which was the reason why she was so popular, and so often taken in.” McEarchern “had an excellent effect upon him (Spencer) but it had not been pleasant.”
Another character is a card shark who lives from house party to house party and preys on young men.
Both Jimmy and McEearchen are interesting people, as is Spike, Jimmy’s former sidekick now masquerading as his valet. Will Jimmy restrain his love of fine jewels or will he once more give in and steal the pearls? Will McEarchern manage to act the gentleman or will he get the horsewhip out for Jimmy? Will Spike lose his accent? (I wish. Spike’s accent was the one negative in the story.)
A Damsel in Distress or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
This is another romantic comedy with plenty of mistaken identities, meddlesome aunts and love triangles. Our leading man, George Bevan, is an American playwright currently in London for his hit musical. He meets Maud when she jumps in his taxi and things go sideways from there.
A Damsel in Distress is also a little bit more serious than most of Wodehouse’s books with all three romances a bit out of the ordinary. Wodehouse shows real feelings with these characters. People don’t spend the entire novel ducking aunts or getting clever or hiding behind the sofa; instead we see self-sacrifice and men risking social opprobrium to marry the ladies they love.
The story is still Wodehouse funny, but a bit less fluffy than the Jeeves stories.