AUNTS AREN’T GENTLEMEN by P.G. Wodehouse

Book Quote:

“I was particularly anxious to get together with Jeeves and hear what he had to say about the strange experience through which I had just passed, as strange an e. as had come my way in what you might call a month of Sundays.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Poornima Apte (AUG 18, 2010)

For me, P. G. Wodehouse and eighth grade totally belong together. I spent all of eighth grade reading whatever Wodehouse I could get my hands on and totally inhabited the lives of Bertie Wooster, Jeeves and Blandings Castle. I still remember my friends and I writing letters to each other in the Wodehouse style: “How are you? Hope you’re in the pink of h.” That sort of stuff.

That instantly recognizable style of writing is also here in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen—one of the many Wodehouse novels being re-released by Overlook Press for the 25th anniversary of his death. This is a Jeeves caper, which means the stoic butler is again rescuing his employer, Bertie Wooster, from comically sticky situations.

Most Wodehouse works are elaborately plotted and quite theatrical. In the best of Wodehouse writing there are many layers of comedic problems to be resolved and the humor arises from the various entanglements the characters find themselves in. A fair amount of the comedy is also physical—characters literally falling into and out of traps much to their surprise. In that sense they are perfect material for sitcoms. In fact a few of the “Fraser” episodes seemed to have a Wodehouse touch—characters walking in and out of doors into situations that only the viewer (reader) understood the humor of.

It wasn’t just Wodehouse’s infinitely loopy plots and comedic situations that made his stories so funny. There was also the writing. Although arguably Wodehouse didn’t do as much irony as is otherwise a cornerstone of British comedy, his writing nevertheless shows a dry sense of humor. His was also a style of writing that showed an immense respect of and love for the language—in that sense too, it was very “English.” Bertie Wooster, for example, often consults with Jeeves about the mot juste to describe many of his feelings. Here’s an example:

“I shall begin by saying that Miss Cook, to whom I’m engaged, is a lady for whom I have the utmost esteem and respect, but on certain matters we do not…what’s the expression?’
‘See eye-to-eye sir?’
‘That’s right. And unfortunately those matters are the what’d-you-call-it of my whole policy. What is it that policies have?’
‘I think the word for which you are groping, sir, may possibly be cornerstone.’

Back to the book, in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, Bertie is recommended a visit to the countryside by his doctor who thinks such a stay could do wonders for his health. As is to be expected in a Jeeves caper, even the sleepy little town of Somerset is wired full of traps and doesn’t give Bertie a moment’s rest.

In the story, Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia books him a cottage in town. Before long this rental is being used as a point of rendezvous between two lovers—Vanessa Cook and Orlo Porter. Ms. Cook once rejected Bertie’s own advances and here, after a huge fight with her boyfriend, she attaches herself to Bertie instead. This is unwelcome news to Bertie and he must find a way of saying No to the pushy Vanessa. A parallel plot revolves around the theft of a cat—a cat that has a vital role to play in an upcoming horse race.

As with other Jeeves stories, complications arise at many points until the end when everything gets resolved well and the story has a happy ending.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen isn’t the best of Wodehouse’s very entertaining work. While the dashes of humor and the style of writing are still here, the plot is not as elaborately plotted as the Jeeves ones usually are. In other words, for a reader new to Wodehouse, this would not be the book to start with. I would recommend Leave it to Jeeves or Pigs Have Wings (a great introduction to the fun at Blandings Castle) instead.

But for those familiar with Wodehouse and Jeeves, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen will serve up some good chuckles—it’s light-hearted reading especially on a dreary afternoon. Wodehouse aficionados will relish revisiting with Bertie, Aunt Dahlia and Jeeves and adding this handsome volume to their collection. For me, it definitely was a nice trip down Memory L.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 5 readers
PUBLISHER: Overlook Hardcover (April 2, 2009)
REVIEWER: Poornima Apte
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? Not Yet
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on P.G. Wodehouse
EXTRAS: Wikipedia on Jeeves
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More Wodehouse on MostlyFiction:

Partial Bibliography:

Jeeves and Bertie:

Also, a story in each of these collections:

Newest Jeeves story:


August 18, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Classic, Humorous, United Kingdom

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