Thursday, October 18, 2018

Piccadilly Jim (Penguin Books)
Piccadilly Jim (Penguin Books)
Penguin Books Ltd, Paperback, 09 December, 1976
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
ISBN: 0140030395
List Price: £3.99
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Customer Reviews

A real little nugget
`Piccadilly Jim' is the story of Jimmy Crocker and how his love for Ann Chester saves him from a life of little more than one drunken brawl after another. Things are never straight forward in Wodehouse's world and Ann is not only under the impression that Jimmy is in fact called Bayliss but also that she despises Jimmy for a piece of journalism he wrote some years previously.

Add to this that international thief Gentleman Jack is also in residence as Lord Wisbeach in order to steal the explosive Willie Partridge is fraudulently claiming to be a world beater from under the nose of maid come private detective Miss Trimble. If that wasn't enough Jimmy's dad has run away from his home in England and is posing as the butler, Skinner, in order to keep up with his beloved baseball scores. All in all this is one of Wodehouse's most elaborate farces with the imposters outstripping anyone answering to their own name by at least two to one.

The only blot on the Landscape is Ogden Ford making a return visit from `The Little Nugget'. That's not to say Ogden's presence damages the novel but mealy that it ties it to a period of Wodehouse's writing which is not up to the standard that runs through `Piccadilly Jim' like an American from a cricket ground.

Vintage stuff
I agree with a previous contributor that Psmith and Wooster novels are better, but in Piccadilly Jim, Wodehouse reached heights I had never experienced before in his novels.

I read Chapters 4 and 5 while awaiting take-off at Nantes airport and I laughed so much I was in distress. It took several warnings from the crew to compose myself and convince them that I was not inebriated.

If you have never read Wodehouse, trip down to your local bookshop and read Chapters 4 and 5. It will cost you nothing but will make you a Wodehouse fan just like the rest of us.

A fascinating thing about P. G. Wodehouse is how very early on it was all in place. This was published in 1917 but is absolute vintage, top drawer Wodehouse - Plum's Roaring Twenties, with its millionaires and night clubs, is already in full swing.

The plot is of an ingenious complexity even by the standards of the master of ingenious complexity (at one point even the hero has to use a pencil and sheet of paper to work out where he stands) I have never read a book before where the lead character has to impersonate Himself, a wonderful conceit.

The whole thing is one big delight, P G Wodehouse revelling in the details of the Good Life on both sides of the Atlantic (don't buy that stuff about Wodehouse `showing up the hypocrisy of the upper classes' etc) There is a gallery of memorable characters as one would expect, but the fearsome feminist Private Detective, snarling through gritted teeth and reading Schopenhauer, has to be one of the most memorable characters in fiction full stop.

And there is a delightful, distinctly unsoppy Romance at the heart of it.

That much overused term feel-good could have been coined with Wodehouse in mind, and he is the one to turn to when the World seems down.

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