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?