July 05, 2003

Summer Moonshine, by P.G. Wodehouse

As long-time readers know, Overlook Press (Everyman's Library, in Great Britain) is publishing a complete uniform hardcover edition of Wodehouse, which is a great and glorious thing. Every so often four new books come out, and I get them, and I read them with delight.

I've been a Wodehouse fan for years, and naturally I've read many of them before. But once in a while they come up with something I've never seen. Usually it's a novel that doesn't involve any of his regular characters. And then I know I'm in for a treat.

Summer Moonshine is no exception. It takes place at stately Walsingford Hall, where cash-strapped Baronet Sir Buckstone Abbott has been reduced to taking in boarders--excuse me, "paying guests"--and has therefore devoted his life to two things: avoiding his guests, and attempting to sell the Hall.

Ironically, the same event that consumed the Abbott fortune also prevents him from selling the Hall. It seems that the old family home burned down in Victorian times, and was rebuilt at great expense by Sir Buckstone's progenitor, who exercised all of his ingenuity and eccentricity. The resulting pile is perhaps one of the ugliest homes in England, and to date only one person has expressed interest. The wealthy, many-times-married American woman, the Princess von und zu Dwornitzchek. The princess' step-son Tubby is one of the paying guests at the Hall, where he has conceived a passion for Prudence Whittaker, Sir Buckstone's secretary. Meanwhile, Sir Buckstone's daughter Jane is engaged to gold-digger Adrian Peake (can you have a male gold-digger?) who is also engaged to the princess. And then the princess' estranged step-son, Tubby's older brother Joe the playwright meets and falls for Jane. Stir in Lady Buckstone's brother Sam from America, and things get predictably silly.

You get the idea. It's one of those books where I kept having to stop and read passages to Jane.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 5, 2003 09:22 AM