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Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott

Published by Little, Brown and Company on November 6, 2018

In his notes to Jeeves and the King of Clubs, Ben Schott describes P.G. Wodehouse as “the greatest humorist in the English language.” It would be difficult to argue with that characterization. Schott does justice to Wodehouse, capturing Bertie Wooster’s amiable ease, Jeeves’s droll wit, and Wodehouse’s playful style. Schott even ends the novel with an explanation of various words he used as a tribute to Wodehouse’s ability to enrich language by originating words or to use them in new ways.

Beleaguered Bertie Wooster is chastised by his new banker, loans money to Montague Montgomery to invest in a horrible play, wears Monty’s sandwich board while Monty delivers the cash, has a cautious encounter with Florence Craye, to whom he was engaged four times, and is warned to keep an eye on the allegedly seditious Roderick Spode, seventh Earl of Sidcup — all in just the first two chapters of Jeeves and the King of Clubs.

During the course of the silliness, Bertie plays matchmaker (between Monty and Florence) and spy (although the espionage, requiring a certain amount of thought, is naturally orchestrated by Jeeves), impersonates an Italian chef, conspires with his aunt, makes fun of British nationalist politicians, deftly evades the attentions of Florence, blackballs unpleasant applicants to his club (the Drones), and has his history, English, horse-betting, and sartorial choices corrected, repeatedly, by Jeeves.

The plot involves matrimony (a state that Bertie firmly opposes), a play for which Bertie must orchestrate a good review, and the unmasking of a spy, but as is typical of a Jeeves novel, most of the story follows Bertie as he sails through his leisurely life. The good-natured Bertie is one of the most likeable characters in fiction, but his ability to turn a phrase (actually Wodehouse’s ability, as channeled by Schott) sets him apart from the crowd.

The world can never have too many Jeeves novels, and if we can’t resurrect Wodehouse to continue writing them, Schott is a worthy substitute.


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