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If there's anything that beats a glass of Tesco value orange juice and a DVD when you're down, it's a P.G. Wodehouse. There is simply nothing like it to perk you up and make you forget your troubles. We're all familiar with the wonderful world of Jeeves and Wooster, but have you discovered the treasure trove that is at your fingertips by delving into any of his other books? The author wrote a range of literature, from school stories to thrillers, but they all have a similar tone: lighthearted, neatly written, and absolutely hilarious.
I read 'Mike and Psmith' first, and was captivated by the brilliantly humorous and linguistically perfect style. It's the story of two very different schoolboys who meet, become friends and have many adventures at the school that both of them hate. 'Mike at Wrykyn' comes before this book chronologically, and 'Leave it to Psmith' comes afterward. Mike at Wrykyn is about Mike, Leave it to Psmith is mostly about Psmith, and Mike and Psmith is about both of them, neatly.
By 'Leave it to Psmith', our heroes have grown up and left school, but what path will they take? Mike Jackson, the quietly brilliant cricketer has married a wonderful woman, but is short in the pocket. And Psmith is desperate to get out of the fish business and make his own fortune. But what can he turn his unusual skills to? Meanwhile, at Blandings Castle, bumbling Freddie Threepwood needs £5000 and his Uncle Joe thinks he knows a way to get it. But is Freddie up to the task, or will he need to employ the services of Psmith? Will the whimsical Miss Peavey notice that her hero isn't a poet after all, but Psmith in disguise? When all of our characters' paths converge (in neat Wodehouse style), the question will be asked: just how many guests at Blandings Castle are after Aunt Connie's diamonds?
Firstly, Psmith (not Peasmith, the P is silent), isn't just the hero of this book, he's the star. Psmith is the most brilliantly crafted character since....well, since Jeeves. He is sharp-witted, manipulative, and he never stops talking.
"'What could any many worthy of the name do but go down to the cloak-room and pinch the best umbrella in sight and take it to her? Yours was easily the best. There was absolutely no comparison. I gave it to her, and she has gone off with it, happy once more. This explanation,' said Psmith, 'will, I am sure, sensibly diminish your natural chagrin. You have lost your umbrella, Comrade Walderwick, but in what a cause! In what a cause, Comrade Walderwick! You are now entitled to rank with Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Ralegh. The latter is perhaps the closer historical parallel...'"
He effortlessly waves off every problem that comes his way by such cunning that he is instantly lovable, and he dominates the book, as a result. We love Mike, but we love Psmith more. That is perhaps why Wodehouse wrote many more books about Psmith (such as Psmith in the city, Psmith the Journalist etc.). Everything he says is funny, and that makes for very good reading I'm sure you'll agree.
"Freddie! I had forgotten all about him!"
"The right spirit," said Psmith, "Quite the right spirit."
You don't need much more to make the book wholly adorable, but Wodehouse adds a series of other brilliant characters just to make sure. Lord Emsworth is an absent-minded old chatterbox, who grumbles about his gardener and has a memory like a sieve. Eve Halliday is the beautiful and spirited young woman hired to catalogue the library at Blandings. The Efficient Baxter is the shrewd clerk of his Lordship, who won't tolerate any funny business. Of course, all of them get caught up in the adventure, and there are misunderstandings, lies, suspicions, schemes, and ultimately, hilarity, as it all ends up in Psmith's hands. And he really is the only capable person to leave it to.
The story is told so light-heartedly that you tend not to realise the plot catching you by surprise. It's not as simple as Wodehouse would fool you into thinking: it's well crafted, and there are twists and turns. Yet, it is not a serious book on any level. Every potentially tense scene is usually interspersed with outrageous comments from Psmith, or frustrated outbursts from the Efficient Baxter, who can't make head nor tail of the goings on at Blandings. Chapters are given headings such as: "Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading" and "Almost Entirely About Flower-pots." And we know throughout that despite the stupidity and meddling of the rest of humanity, Psmith (much like Jeeves) will untangle it all, in true style, and get the girl.
It's difficult to fault. Wodehouse is certainly one of the most skilled writers of our time, and his characterisation and above all dialogue are perfection. If you've read it before, you might remember some of the surprises, but I continue enjoying it nevertheless. If you've read any of Wodehouse's school stories, you should definitely read Mike at Wrykyn and then the best (in my opinion), Mike and Psmith, first. But there is no better way to make yourself giggle and take your mind of things than to read Leave it to Psmith. Buy it from amazon.co.uk for £5.99.