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What ho, I see there's a new Jeeves and Wooster yarn on the shelves. Best fetch my glasses to read the small print. What's this, then? "An homage to P.G. Wodehouse by Sebastian Faulks." Isn't Faulks the bloke who wrote that World War I wheeze Birdshot, or was it Birdsong? Did that James Bond pastiche Devil May Care, as well? His new tale revolves around a girl, of course, but not of the Bond variety. In this instance, she's a chocolate-eyed beauty whose voice has the sound of a frisky brook cascading over the strings of a well-tuned harp. You know the effect. Georgiana Meadowes's father is having problems maintaining the old manse and, to gain funds, has betrothed her to another. To the rescue trots Bertie Wooster posing as Mr. Wilberforce, a gentleman's personal gentleman, in service to Jeeves, disguised as Lord Etringham. Many plans, as well as boobies, have to be hatched to keep this state of topsy-turviness afloat. All of them, according to Bertie, are foolproof. Of course, Jeeves is there to assure that they are so. VERDICT Let word go forth, from Mayfair to Herald Square, from Piccadilly to Kansas City: Jeeves and Wooster are back and in fine fettle. After sampling this tasty bonbon, Wodehouse fans and new readers will want to go back to the original series. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]-Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Reviewed by Peter Cannon. In an author's note included with the galley of this homage to P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), Sebastian Faulks asserts that he's "no expert," that he's "just a fan," with a modesty becoming Bertie Wooster. Despite such protests, the Wodehouse estate chose well in authorizing him to pen the first new Jeeves and Wooster novel since 1974's Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. In addition to concocting an intricate farce complete with fresh metaphors and literary allusions worthy of the master himself, Faulks has varied the standard Wodehouse formula in ways both subtle and daring.At the start, Bertie explains how he has wound up working downstairs at a country house in Dorset one weekend, while Jeeves masquerades as Lord Etringham among the upstairs crowd. Faulks may well have taken inspiration for this scenario from Julian MacLaren-Ross's "Good Lord, Jeeves," a brief parody admired by Wodehouse himself, in which Jeeves is elevated to the peerage and a destitute Bertie willingly agrees to enter his service. Where Wodehouse only hinted, Faulks refers explicitly to serious events of the period, like Britain's 1926 general strike. In chapter one, a fellow member of London's Drones Club says to Bertie en route to a stint on the Piccadilly Line, "Surely even you, Bertie, are aware that there's been a General Strike?" When a character later asks Jeeves if he's related to a noted cricket player of that name, Jeeves discreetly indicates that his distant relative perished at the Battle of the Somme. In fact, Wodehouse, a keen cricketer, derived the name for his gentleman's gentleman from one Percy Jeeves, a cricketer who was killed in action in that epic slaughter. Who better than Faulks, the author of Birdsong, a harrowing novel set during the Great War, to drop a reminder of the horror of the trenches into Wodehouse's innocent world? In the original novels and stories, Bertie refers only in passing to his accomplishments as a sportsman. In a key chapter in this pastiche, Bertie plays in a cricket match that may baffle Americans unfamiliar with the game but serves to show him as a lovable, well-meaning bungler. Georgiana Meadowes, a low-level employee of a London publisher who joins the house party in Dorset, appreciates this endearing side of him. Astute Wodehouse fans will sense early on that Georgiana is not the typical predatory female who sets her eye on Bertie. Indeed, their relationship takes an especially poignant turn after they both play roles in a scene from A Midsummer's Night's Dream as part of a village entertainment. As Faulks guides the reader through such familiar business as Jeeves disapproving of one of Bertie's sartorial eccentricities (in this instance, growing sideburns) and organizing a betting syndicate among the house guests, he takes his story to a place that Wodehouse scrupulously avoided. The heartwarming denouement, which reveals how the godlike Jeeves has manipulated the action from behind the scenes, humanizes Bertie and Jeeves as Wodehouse never did. In my humble opinion, Faulks has outdone Wodehouse. Peter Cannon, PW's senior reviews editor, is the author of Scream for Jeeves: A Parody. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* What, ho?! This blighter Faulks, after making a reasonably good show of posing as Ian Fleming (Devil May Care, 2009), has the unmitigated gall to take a run at impersonating the inimitable P. G., the very incarnation of sui generis? Doesn't he know that Wodehouseans far and wide, well born and less so, will be sharpening their incisors for the chance to take a chomp at the hindquarters of the cheeky upstart? But wait. Hold off, old sports. Young Faulksie just may have the gray matter to make a go of it. The first order of business when attempting to offer homage to Sir Pelham Grenville is to construct a plot as screwball crazy as anything Shakespeare ever concocted in the Forest of Arden (disguises, mistaken identities, catastrophic kerfuffles all de rigueur); next is to plop bumbling aristocrat Bertie Wooster in the middle of the muddle; and, finally, of course, it's necessary to set Bertie's unflappable manservant, the all-knowing Jeeves, to the herculean task of making it all work. Faulksie's plot is spot on: Bertie's pal, Peregrine Woody Beeching, has been dumped by his beloved, but Bertie is on the case. The plan, for reasons only a savvy Hegelian could fathom, involves Bertie posing as a manservant and Jeeves as his master. Brilliant stroke, that, allowing Jeeves to show his stuff at dinner-table chitchat and Bertie to, well, spill the gravy. Naturally, it all takes place at a country house (Wodehouse's Forest of Arden), and, equally naturally, Miss Georgiana Meadowes, who makes Bertie's heart go pitty-pat, is also in attendance. OK, fine, this P. G. poseur gets the plot right, but what about the all-important patter, the Bertie-isms and the priceless Bertie-Jeeves dialogue duets? But Faulksie nails it again, evoking rather than imitating, but doing so in perfect pitch. Finally, old-timers will doubtless recoil in horror at the shocking conclusion, but let's all loosen our stuffed shirts and let the new guy have his way. Top drawer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Expect major media attention for the return of Bertie and Jeeves.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist