My Classics Spin Book: The Luck of the Bodkins

The latest Spin hosted by the Classics Club brought me The Luck of the Bodkins by P. G. Wodehouse. The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe this book is “silly.” That is both good and bad, depending on what you are looking for. If you are looking for something funny, this is it. The audio edition, perfectly narrated by Jonathan Cecil, entertained me for two weeks’ worth of commuting, and yes, I did laugh out loud a few times, which is a compliment since I don’t often laugh while reading. However, if you are looking for something with substance, look elsewhere, because at times, all the silliness became a little too much for me.

Essentially, this is the story of six people crossing the Atlantic from France to America. Monty Bodkin is in love with Gertrude Butterwick. However, she has recently broken off their engagement for reasons he doesn’t know, so he’s not thrilled that they are both on the same ship. Monty’s friend Reggie Tennyson, also on board, is trying to cheer him up while avoiding his brother, Ambrose, who thinks Reggie has an affair with his fiancé Lotus Blossom. Ambrose is on his way to Hollywood to start as a writer for film maker Ivor Llewellyn, who, you guessed it, happens to be on the ship as well, together with his sister-in-law, Mabel Spence. Reggie falls in love with Mabel and hopes to get a job with Llewellyn as well, so that he can marry Mabel. Further, Ambrose and Reggie are Gertrude’s cousins, so of course they are trying to get things straightened between her and Monty. Add to this a pet alligator, a large jewelry box in form of a mouse, a pearl necklace that has to be smuggled through US Customs, the fact that Llewellyn thought Ambrose Tennyson was really Alfred Tennyson, and a nosy room steward, and you get an ocean-crossing voyage without a moment’s rest. Misunderstandings abound, mostly due to bad timing and bad advice. The big question of whether the three couples will get to happily ever after is left open until the very end.

As escape reading, this can hardly be beat. The humor reminded me of one of my go-to movies, “Bringing Up Baby” with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and of my favorite German comedian, Heinz Erhardt. But even though I’ve been craving comfort and escape reading for the past year or so, frankly, after a while, the antics in this book became a little too much for me. If any of the six young people had asked for my opinion, I would have told everyone except maybe Lotus Blossom that they are obviously way too immature to get married. The irony of the fact that this inclination to give unsolicited advice puts me in with Albert Peasemarch, the room steward, is not lost on me. 🙂

If you are a Wodehouse reader, I’d like to know how you rank this book among his works. Is there another book that you prefer?

 

 

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27 comments

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s never read Wodehouse – seems like I’ve got good company, from reading the comments! This one sounds enjoyable but maybe a little frenetic? I’d like to try Wodehouse sometime.

  2. Lovely review, TJ. Like others here, I’ve read and enjoyed some of the Jeeves and Wooster books. They’re great fun, but as Karen says above it’s best to space them out a little –
    otherwise they all start to merge together!

  3. I love Wodehouse, but it’s the Jeeves and Wooster books that work best for me. The rest I enjoy but agree – they can become a bit too much after a while. Interestingly, the recurring characters in the Jeeves books rarely do get married though they constantly get engaged. But two books later, that engagement will be off and another one on, or they will have fallen out and require the services of Jeeves to get them back together again. I can only think of two couples off the top of my head who ever actually tied the knot, and neither of those storylines were my favourites. I always felt Wodehouse himself knew his characters in those books at least were too shallow and immature to “settle down” and that was what made them so much fun. Jonathan Cecil is a fab narrator of them, though, isn’t he? I’m just about to start listening to his narration of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves… 😀

    • I doubt that any of the engagements in Bodkins will hold up for long. 🙂 I will look for one of the Jeeves books next. You’ve mentioned a few times that those are your favorite Wodehouse ones.

  4. I haven’t read this one, so can’t rank it; I’ve mostly stuck to Jeeves and a few Blandings Castle stories with Wodehouse. I think my favorite is Right Ho, Jeeves — the Market Snodsbury Prize Giving scene never fails to make me laugh out loud.

  5. I’ve never read Wodehouse, but I would love to find out what I think of his humour. I’m also interested to see if anyone has definite recommendations.
    I like “You’ll be cozy as a worm in a walnut” – I’m going to “steal” that one. 🙂

  6. I’ve only read The Code of the Woosters, but I felt the same way. A silly fun read, but nothing more. Very heavy on ‘misunderstnadings’ humor, which is hit or miss with me.

    • I usually don’t find humor in books all that funny, but this one worked pretty well. It was a perfect audiobook for the car, one where it doesn’t matter if you miss a few sentences here or there.

  7. I’m a Wodehouse fan, but I don’t think I’ve ever read this one! My last PGW was Jill the Reckless, which was fabulous. I loved it. It sounds like Bodkins is more frenetic than Jill, so maybe try that one next time, or of course a Jeeves/Bertie Wooster story.

  8. I love the names, especially Gertrude Butterwick. It does sound silly, but in a good way. I love Bringing Up Baby, so it’s good to know it’s a similar type of screwball comedy. I have never read anything by Wodehouse, mostly because he just has so many books that I have no idea where to start. I’ll be interested to see what responses you get as to his best books.

    • The names are great! There are some good one-liners, too, which have led to some odd looks from the kids. I told Kid #2 the other night, after I tucked her in: “You’ll be as cozy as a worm in a walnut.” And when Kid #1 was mad about something silly: “Don’t act like a dying duck.” I wonder if they’ll ever find out where I got those expressions from. 🙂

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