Book Review – JEEVES AND THE WEDDING BELLS by SEBASTIAN FAULKS
Published by Hutchinson November 2013
Note: ebook available
In the opening chapter there is role reversal to the usual circumstances of the main characters, and the reader is immediately curious to find out why this is. Bertie is performing manservant tasks, and Jeeves is quite at home posing as Lord Etringham. The affairs of more than one heart features, and both men play at match making with the best intentions meant (or so it seems). Jeeves is head planner. He is self informed of all things Bertie, and beyond Bertie. Jeeves is ahead of the game. The reader knows this all along, but not to full extent until the last chapter. Both characters demonstrate much social grace and good manners, through their own interaction, and with others, and it is the language surrounding Bertie ambling through his daily life, and Jeeve’s responses, that is so frequently funny. Bertie fusses and muses over small things, news and wider events like the suffragette movement for instance are mentioned (in passing), but Bertie devotes much more of his attention to the making of social comparisons of people. Whichever element of the story is running the author never fails to include that witty slant. A thread of romance weaves it way through the story and love triumphs in the end; so will categorise this as being a Romantic Comedy (of sorts).
Comedic – a strong theme featuring is ‘Morality’ and this is upheld throughout and is unbending; this is the base for the comedy and the author remains a stickler for it. Most lines have various degrees of smile inducing qualities.
Descriptive – highly descriptive – humorous dialogue delivered in various settings, within a stately home and the English countryside for example, also much detail and clever language skills used particularly in the story lines focusing on the midsummer festival and the cricket match.
Spiritual – No religion features. Friendship bonds are explored. Bertie constantly seeks out, is pacified and satisfied by Jeeve’s well-versed turn of phrase and personable manner for the best part. He can be “a bit put out”, but this is rare, and any displeasure Bertie might feel is dissipated by whatever Jeeves says next. The two main characters have a deep, mutual respect for one another.
Violent – No violence
Sexual – No sexual content
Negative/Positive – Endless positives, and any negatives could well be thought of as a positive as is often the case and depending on the viewpoint, for example: the content makes for easy reading. It is not that attention grabbing and it is easy to keep putting the book down, but it does give a pleasant reading experience as and when you return to it.
Mainly Classic English of high society (20th century) – free of profanity. Many colloquialisms such as: “thingummy” – “the blighters” and “whatsit”; and words at the end of speech that involves the two main characters are sometimes shortened; this helps the reading to flow and the comedy aspect. The work of others from the real world are referred to for fun’s sake, Thomas Hardy for example and in particular his novel Jude The Obscure. Faulkes mentions Dorset (Hardy country) and refers to the county as Dorsetshire, and there is a performance preparation and quotes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Proper Nouns and Alliteration entwine – Hickory Hog Holdings, Spanier’s Sausage Casings, Mrs Padgett’s Pie, Hickory Hot Boy.
Was it the author’s intention to echo P G Wodehouse’s prose? If so, was this achieved? I cannot reveal, as I, although familiar with Wodehouse’s famous characters from TV’s A Bit of Fry and Laurie in the 90s, am not familiar with the many short stories and books about Bertie Wooster and his “personal gentleman” Reginald Jeeves.
Breath has definitely been allowed to fill the lungs of Bertie once again, as it is his voice we hear throughout in the first person, and his most gracious, yet eccentric annotations, are delivered plentifully and are wondrously descriptive.
I can, without a shred of doubt, say, that Faulks has achieved at the very least the nostalgic variation he speaks of in his notes, and that this new novel should appeal to Wodehouse fans for that reason. This will serve as incentive for people to discover the life and times of this famous fictional character and his valet/butler; and more of the works of P G Wodehouse.
This Review of Sebastian Faulks’s – Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by reviewer, Debra Hall.