Wodehouse, P(elham) G(renville) 1881–1975
Wodehouse was an English-born novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and editor who emigrated to the United States in 1910. His fictional milieu is upper-class England, and his characters are the stock characters of this caste. He derides its social and moral conventions with a unique farcical genius. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 5, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48; obituary, Vols. 57-60.)
Future readers of Mr. Wodehouse's novels would be well advised to begin with those of his old age and work inwards towards those of his capacious prime. The Girl in Blue, for instance, is funny and well-written enough for anyone to start on, and in many ways it is characteristic of his work. Country house, hunt for disappearing valuables, strange butler, comic Americans, literary lady, benevolent aunt-like figure, village policeman, bohemian but athletic hero, trim and clean-cut heroine—they are all here. Addicts too will find it remarkably good, though what they look for in a new Wodehouse is something of much more specialized interest. First and foremost they are fascinated to see that this writer's gifts and productivity are still not exhausted. Then they watch for innovations: is the modern world making any impact on the traditional Wodehouse cosmography; have any of the old characters undergone interesting (if sometimes unintentional) new developments? Finally they note how and where the earlier books are most obviously superior.
In the present case the innovations are slight, and in some cases unsound….
The main thing to strike the hardened reader is that the plotting is a bit flimsy, the adventures of The Girl in Blue (by Gainsborough) being nothing like as intricate or as neatly constructed as they would have been in the 1920s and 30s. But the slight feeling of dissatisfaction which this brings towards the end of the book is hardly likely to be felt by the unspoilt.
"Starter," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1970; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), November 6, 1970, p. 1291.