* Prices may differ from that shown
'Full Moon', first published in 1947, is the sixth of P.G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle novels. Lord and master, in theory if not in practice, is the kindly, absent-minded and ever forgetful Clarence, 9th Earl of Emsworth. His pride and joy is the Empress of Blandings, a prize sow, and his favourite reading matter Whiffle's 'On The Care Of The Pig'. Not normally his pride and joy are a bunch of tiresome relations, notably his irrepressible younger brother Galahad or 'Gally', always the life and soul of the party, and his equally irrepressible but rather stupid and tiresome son Freddie Threepwood. Both of them have a habit of disturbing his peace and quiet.
Like many of Wodehouse's novels, this book reads just like a musical comedy in which various young people fall in love, and at least one engagement, or a broken one, is never far away. Add to that a group of family members and misunderstandings, and the result is a delightful 200 pages or so of sheer escapist buffoonery.
The plot opens roughly as follows. Freddie, who was apparently pursuing a successful career in America as a salesman for Donaldson's Dog-Joy, the company founded and owned by his rich father-in-law, has returned to England and decides he wants to come and live at the castle while he tries to sell pet food to the British. At about the same time two of Emsworth's nieces, both romantically involved, appear on the scene. Prudence Garland is involved with Bill 'Blister' Lister, who is the godson of Gally, while Veronica Wedge is being courted by American millionaire Tipton Plimsoll.
Keen to come and court Prudence, Lister is hired to paint a portrait of the Empress, but he makes a total mess of it and Emsworth, deeply offended, sends him away. Relying on his brother's total unworldliness and appalling memory, Gally brings Lister back to the castle to make a second and hopefully better attempt of the picture, but this time under the assumed name of Landseer, painter of the world-famous 'The Pig at Bay' (not to be confused - or perhaps, yes, definitely to be confused, with the Victorian artist Landseer and 'The Stag at Bay') - and with the disguise of a false beard. Meanwhile Plimsoll, who has just been on a drinking binge, develops spots on his chest and goes to Harley Street to try and find out why and how. He is advised to lay off the demon drink or he will have hallucinations. When he goes to Blandings in pursuit of Veronica, a sweet obliging young soul but one who was evidently on another planet when brains were being distributed to the human race, he keeps seeing this apparition which he is convinced is a gorilla. It is none other than Lister in a dodgy beard.
Add to that misunderstandings involving such mishaps as a very expensive diamond necklace being taken for worthless tat and almost given away to the wrong person, the Empress being pignapped and temporarily trapped in the bedroom of the horrified Veronica, to mention but two, and one will see that the course of true love does not run smooth. A mere description of the plot like this perhaps looks a little flat, and certainly doesn't do justice to the book. It's all a bit improbable, but in the best possible way. Rest assured that everything ends happily, young hearts are united, and a full moon once more shines over the tranquillity of the ancestral pile.
As ever, much of the fun in reading this book is not just the cheerful humour and general silliness, in the best possible sense, but Wodehouse's turn of phrase and little side stories. In the opening pages, an elderly colonel takes himself for a short stroll in the garden and assumes that he is totally alone with Nature. He then suddenly sees something which at first glance looks like a pile of old clothes, but on closer inspection turns out to be not only alive but is also a relation by marriage. It is Lord Emsworth, who has gone to the pigsty to go and listen to the Empress. A little further on, we read, Prudence 'made a tired gesture, like a Christian martyr who has got a bit fed up with the lions'.
Meanwhile, let us not forget that Beach and his assistants will gladly make tea and toast in the afternoon, but Beach does not drink tea, 'having had a prejudice against the stuff' since a friend had once taken it as a substitute for alcohol 'and had perished miserably as a result'. Actually, the hapless man had come off second best after a minor collision with a cab in Piccadilly, but it was apparently his fault for drinking tea. Maybe that should be a lesson to us all, or it would be if we were just characters in Wodehouse books. Sadly we aren't, and never will.
The Jeeves and Wooster stories are so familiar, especially as they have been popularised by various radio and TV adaptations. The Blandings books have been twice televised by the BBC, in the late 1960s when Sir Ralph Richardson played Lord Emsworth, and more recently when the honour went to Timothy Spall. In spite of that, there seems to be this slightly indefinable air of second-best about the whole Blandings saga, as if Emsworth and his butler Beach can never overcome the hurdle of not being Wooster and Jeeves.
Having said that, I think this is one of the funniest of the saga. If you're only remotely familiar with Wodehouse, yet liked what you read sufficiently to want to try more, I can wholeheartedly recommend this one. If you're already a convert, there's a good chance that you'll know this one already. If not, what are you waiting for?
This is a review of a novel by the archetypal posh English author P.G. Wodehouse. I've had an on/off relationship with the novels and short stories of P.G. for over 30 years, going many years without feeling the need to dip my toe in the waters of posh Aunts, upper class savants and the intrigues of the pre-second world war aristocrats. However, I read and enjoyed a Jeeves and Wooster adventure a couple of months ago and this reawakened my desire for a bit of pith and tomfoolery so I spotted this novel in the library and thought why not.
Full moon is a largely ridiculous story about a group of well of British and Americans who all converge on Blanding's Castle for a long weekend. The main character is an American store tycoon called Tipton, Tipton is given a warning by his doctor about his drinking and whilst on the way to a friend of a friend's wedding decides to stop off at a local pub for a swift one. Whilst having his little snifter he keeps seeing in the window, an ugly gorilla of a man who keeps popping his head up and down. This unfortunate is the groom to be, William Lister or as he's called throughout the book either Bill or Blister.
Tipton taken back by this sighting thinks it's the effect of the drink and vows to stop; he has been invited to Blanding's by a friend Freddie who wants a concession on the stores dog biscuit business. Thinking the fresh would do his good he decides to take up the offer, Bill is left standing at the altar when his phone call to his beloved is intercepted by the girl's mother. The girl's mother is also Freddie's Aunt and the betrothed his cousin, all the more reason therefore for Bill to go to Blanding's and show them his good nature. Lord Emsworth, Freddie's father is a pig lover and has asked his brother Galahad to find a man to paint his prize pig, Galahad finds Bill and all the cast are assembled.
That's the premise and of course there are loads of misunderstandings, awkwardness and the absolute need for regular snifters. There is of course humour in the novel and I sometimes wonder if Wodehouse uses satire because his characters are so outlandish and unbelievable. There are soon little stories spinning of stories, love triangles, love misunderstandings and plenty of good hard drinking. Tipton is the main character I would say, all the stories revolve in some around him. He's thin, funny and confused by English behaviour.
I think it would be fair to say that this isn't one of PG's better stories, the fall back of the dotty peer, the new v old world and endless confused tales of love in the garden feels a bit forced. Without the comedy of Wooster's first person perspective which is apparent in a Jeeves and Wooster story this one doesn't work as well. The sub-story about the pig, is well either delightfully quaint or a push to far in terms of English eccentricity, though I suspect PG would claim to have known a dotty enough member of the peerage.
Not his best but still a decent enough read, a bit of froth and fun and nothing much else.
I have only read one P.G. Wodehouse novel before - a Jeeves one some years ago - but was eager to try another. So after receiving a copy of Full Moon - a book from the series of Blandings novels - from Bookbag, I was looking forward to starting it.
Full Moon is set at Blandings Castle, where an odd assortment of lords, ladies, other family members, staff and hangers-on gather. Each of the characters is caricatured by the author and is definitely of their time - as the men sport monocles or ''pince-nez'' - and the upper classes.
Wodehouse is great for a bit of hobnobbing with the upper echelons of English society and his comedy and writing style are excellent, if you enjoy that sort of thing. I did appreciate a lot of the satire and farce in Full Moon, but I found some of it rather tiring and 'translating' some of the language was mildly irritating at times.
The characters often have ridiculous names - like the Hon. Galahad Threepwood - which annoyed me too, and all of these idiosyncrasies meant it was harder for me to just get into the book and enjoy it.
When I did get into parts of it, it created some visual spectacles in my mind and some very funny situations. It reminded me of a farce in the theatre, with people climbing out of windows while someone else opens the bedroom door.
There are plenty of plots and sub-plots and thwarted dalliances. Lord Emsworth wants a portrait painted of his prize-winning pig, while Bill Lister and Prudence are in love, but her parents don't approve of the match. Veronica Wedge falls in love with Tipton Plimsoll and her sentiments are reciprocated, but Tippy is trying to avoid alcohol, a strange face that keeps popping up - and dealing with doubts that Freddie Threepwood may perhaps be pursuing Veronica himself.
It all sounds rather complex - and it is. I managed to follow it all well enough, but some of the characters are very similar and not always easily distinguishable from one another. The elderly men seem to be loud-mouthed blundering buffoons, while the young ladies are often weak and over-emotional. They do often feel rather formulaic.
The novel itself is fairly short at 261 pages, but it took a while to plough through the text and in the end, it probably wasn't worth the effort. It is okay, nothing amazing, but if you are a big fan of P.G. Wodehouse, you'll love it, of course.
The novel was originally published in 1947, but the novels are being re-issued with new cover art and this one came out in May this year. The cover is well-designed and has quotes by Ben Elton and Stephen Fry to recommend it.
While I would not rush out to buy or borrow more books in this ilk, I would not rule out revisiting P. G. Wodehouse at a later date. I might prefer one of his other series though. Besides the Blandings Castle novels, he wrote the famous Jeeves books, plus many other lesser-known ones like Mulliner, Uncle Fred and the Golf books.
A version of this review first appeared at The Bookbag.