What is this? A new Jeeves and Wooster novel? Didn’t P. G. Wodehouse die in 1975?
Surprise! Long after the authors died, new novels kept coming out in the bestselling series by Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, Vince Flynn, Stieg Larsson, Robert Ludlum, and Robert B. Parker, among others. There’s a time-honored tradition in the publishing world for the authors’s heirs and the publishers to keep long-running series alive—and make more money. It’s simple, really: just enlist a ghostwriter or a published author who’s comfortable making more money, too. There’s even a name for this: the continuation novel. So, why should P. G. Wodehouse’s celebrated series of Jeeves and Wooster novels be any different? Except that for most authors writing humor tends to be more challenging than churning out a new mystery or thriller.
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells: An Homage to P. G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster #16) by Sebastian Faulks (2013) 254 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Jeeves and Wooster are up to their old tricks
So, here we are with Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. It’s Sebastian Faulks’s attempt to bring back to life the hapless Bertie Wooster and his brilliant and learned butler, Jeeves—and to a remarkable degree he succeeds. The book is, indeed, funny. Just as in the 15 novels in the original series by P. G. Wodehouse, Bertie manages to get himself into an impossibly complicated mess and blunder about until he is extracted from danger by the trusty Jeeves.
The new Jeeves and Wooster novel abounds with familiar characters
The book teems with familiar characters, such as Aunt Agatha, “who is so deeply imbued with shades of darkness that in the aftermath of bloodletting even Vlad the Impaler might have yielded her first dibs with stake and mallet.” And of course there are incidental characters and those merely mentioned in passing whose names conjure up English high society in a much more innocent age. Cora “Corky” Pirbright and Zenobia “Nobby” Hopwood. Oofy Prosser and Catsmeat Potter-Pilbright.
Two weddings, no funeral?
The conceit at the heart of Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is that Bertie met a captivating young woman on the Côte d’Azur. Naturally, he fell in love with her. (This is not the first time for Bertie.) However, now Georgiana Meadowes is engaged to a much wealthier man she is obligated to marry. And only if she does so can her cousin marry Bertie’s friend, Peregrine “Woody” Beeching. So, Bertie’s challenge—even though he’s too dense to know it—is to persuade Georgiana to break off her engagement and marry him instead. But without getting in the way of Woody’s marriage.
Will this all work out in the end? Will there be wedding bells in Bertie’s future? Of course! But only Jeeves can make it happen. And so it must be in the new Jeeves and Wooster novel.
About the author
Sebastian Faulks is the author of 17 novels and has won a slew of literary awards for his work. He’s best known for his historical fiction. In an Author’s Note at the beginning of Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, he writes, “This book is intended as a tribute . . . to P. G. Wodehouse: a thank-you for all the pleasure his work has given.” He wrote the book with the permission of Wodehouse’s heirs. Doubtless they gave the green light in hopes of boosting sales of the 15 previous entries in the Jeeves and Wooster series. Which is okay with me.
For further reading
Previously, I reviewed one of the original Jeeves and Wooster novels at From P. G. Wodehouse, a classic comic novel that’s still funny today.
You might also be interested in:
- My 10 favorite funny novels;
- Christopher Buckley writes satirical novels that are very, very funny;
- Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series of comic crime novels; and
- Following Mick Herron’s clever British spies at Slough House.
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.