Friday, December 09, 2022

Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse

Stop me if you've heard this before: it's summertime at Blandings Castle. The Empress is feeding in preparation for the annual Fattest Pig competition, dreamily watched by Lord Emsworth. Galahad's memoirs are lurking about, potentially scandalous to an entire swath of now-respectable middle-aged men, greatly desired by a publisher and greatly feared by Gally's formidable sisters Constance and Julia. And a young man is in love with a fabulous gal that his family thinks is unsuited for him.

Of course you have heard that before: it's roughly the plot of Summer Lightning, P.G. Wodehouse's 1929 novel set at Blandings. It's also roughly the plot of his 1933 novel Heavy Weather, which takes place about two weeks later. [1]

This time there are two young men with romantic problems, since Wodehouse delights in increasing complication. Returning from Lightning is Ronald Fish, son of the formidable Julia and nephew of the distracted Emsworth, who wants to marry a chorus-girl named Sue Brown. And joining us from wider fields of Wodehousiana is Monty Bodkin, who will be allowed to marry the fabulous (and entirely offstage) Gertrude Butterwick if he can prove he's not merely a wastrel heir by holding a job for a full year.

The plot this time does not center on plots to steal the Empress. But it does center on plots to steal or otherwise leverage that manuscript of Gally's - either to get it to Lord Tilbury, the publishing magnate who has paid for it but was informed by Gally it has been withdrawn, or to deliver it to Constance for destruction. The existence of the manuscript is the only thing currently keeping Ronnie's engagement with Sue from falling before the full force of Constance and Julia's attacks.

This is a Wodehouse book, so it ends joyfully, with virtue rewarded, young love in bloom, funny hijinks along the way, and all stolen items returned to their proper owners. (Shockingly, there are no major impostors to be unmasked in this book - that's almost unheard of for Blandings, which has impostors like some ancestral piles have rising damp.)

I don't know if this is one of Wodehouse's best: the plot strands sometimes stay pretty separate, and the ending isn't as much of a smash as some. And it is something of a re-run of Lightning. But it's a fine entertainment from his prime period, amusing and wonderful in its every word, so to say anything more would be carping.

[1] Scholarly voice: We can deduce a consistent temporal relationship between Wodehouse's fictional world and the real one. Given an initial value of tⁱ (time in-universe) as 2 weeks being equal to a value of tⁿ (time normally passing) of 4 years, this paper will prove that....

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